A U.S. F-16 fighter jet crashed early Tuesday morning in a forest in southern Germany during a training flight exercise. The pilot managed to eject safely, police and U.S. Air Force officials said.
One official on the scene told reporters the recovery could take time since the terrain in that area is very difficult to access. He said they were extremely lucky that no one got hurt since people do live in the area. One eyewitness, a woman who lives near the crash site, said she knew something was wrong when she saw the plane flying very low.
She says she saw the pilot jump out of the plane, then seconds later, saw a huge plume of smoke, “really big as black as coal, fill the sky.” A German police spokesman told ABC News that the pilot came down with a parachute.
The crash site, near Engelmannsreuth in the northern part of Bavaria State, was cordoned off very quickly by rescue personnel.
A spokesman for the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base said, “The aircraft was carrying six 25-pound training munitions. There were no live munitions on board.”
The pilot safely jettisoned fuel tanks over an unpopulated area, police said. The cause of the crash is now under investigation.
The pilot– who was on a training flight out of the U.S. Army Garrison in Grafenwoehr, Bavaria– was found by a passerby in the woods and received treatment for minor injuries.