Federal investigators are probing a fiery plane crash that burned for almost four hours Wednesday at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, about 20 miles south of Ventura. Three people who were aboard the civilian refueling plane were able to escape without serious injury.
• A civilian plane that was contracted by the U.S. Navy to refuel planes on aircraft carriers crashed during attempted takeoff from Point Mugu Naval Air Station.
• The plane burst into flames, burning and spilling 150,000 pounds of jet fuel. Some of it spilled into nearby wetlands, impacting wildlife and the environment.
• There were three people on the plane, including the pilot and co-pilot. All of them escaped with only minor injuries.
• The NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash.
The plane was a modified Boeing 707 operated by Omega Air Refueling, a civilian company under contract to the Navy, said naval base spokesman Vance Vasquez. It crashed during takeoff.
The plane was heading down the main runway at the Point Mugu base when it veered off the pavement, went into a marsh area, broke up and caught fire, Vasquez told the Ventura County Star.
“Apparently it never did get airborne,” Vasquez said.
There were three civilians, including the pilot and co-pilot, aboard the plane when it crashed and caught fire. All three escaped with only minor injuries, according to Vasquez.
The plane, which was carrying 150,000 pounds of fuel, burned until after 9 p.m. and issued a huge plume of black smoke that could be seen for miles. Ventura county and city firefighters worked with federal personnel to try to put out the fire. A sheriff’s helicopter also dropped water on the stubborn blaze.
“Toward the end, they wanted to let it burn itself out,” Vasquez said. The fire was not near any people or buildings.
Not all of the fuel was burned in the fire. Some of it leaked into the Point Mugu Lagoon, where it impacted 10 acres of wetland, California Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman Carole Singleton said. Harbor seals and birds, including snowy plovers and clapper rails, live in the wetland. The Fish and Game department was working with the Navy, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Ventura County Fire Department and a cleanup contractor to try to lessen the impact of the fuel spill on the wildlife and the environment.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, said the plane experienced an engine fire during takeoff. The Federal Aircraft Administration, Boeing, the U.S. Navy Air Safety Center also are participating in the investigation.
Vasquez said the plane was supposed to fly out over the Pacific Ocean to refuel carrier-based Navy aircraft during a routine training exercise.
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