Jacksonville, FL (Off Shore) Jet Crashes On USS NIMITZ, May 1981
NIMITZ RETURNS TO NORFOLK.
MOST INJURED BACK ON DUTY.
Jacksonville, Fla. (AP) -- The USS Nimitz steamed toward its home port of Norfolk, Va., today with 20 damaged planes on its deck and a grim cargo below -- the corpses of 14 servicemen who died when a jt crashed in flames on the aircraft carrier.
The accident also injured 48 people.
Despite the damage to the aircraft, estimated at more than $60 million, damage to the nuclear-powered ship itself was "not extraordinarily heavy"
according to Capt. Larry Hamilton, chief public affairs officer for the Atlantic Fleet.
"The carrier most likely will be able to do a quick turnaround," he said.
The Navy said results of an official investigation into the crash of the electronic warfare jet may not be available for six months. But a Navy spokesman who asked not to be identified said the jet apparently "landed a little right of the center line and on a carrier deck there isn't any room for an error like that."
Twenty-one crewmen were airlifted to land-based hospitals for treatment. One crewman, listed in critical condition, was at St. Vincent's Hospital in Jacksonville, and four burn victims were airlifted to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, a spokesman there said. The others were treated at the Naval Regional Medical Center at Jacksonville, none with critical injuries.
Of the 27 injured about the Nimitz, all but four have returned to duty, officials said. The four still in sick bay were not in serious condition, but officials said they would be taken to Portsmouth Naval Hospital for observation.
The Marine EA-6B Prowler, made by Grumman Corp., crashed while landing from a training mission Tuesday night, sparking a fire on the Nimitz, the world's largest warship, off the Florida coast.
The blaze quickly spread to other aircraft, reported Cmdr. Jim Lois, spokesman for the Naval Air Forces Atlantic. "As far as I know, wheather was not a factor," he added.
Ship firefighters battled the blaze for 70 minutes before putting it out, officials said.
Lois said damage to the carrier was confined to the flight deck area. Four aircraft were destroyed, including the one that crashed, and 16 others were damaged. The Nimitz is able to carry 90 aircraft, Navy officials said, but they declined to say how many were aboard Tuesday.
The four destroyed planes were worth more than $60 million, the Navy said. There was no estimate on the cost of the damage to the others.
Cindy Williams, wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Richard Williams, quoted her husband as saying it sounded like a bomb had gone off when the crash occurred.
"He told me he just couldn't get out of the way," she said Wednesday after visiting her injured husband in Jacksonville, where he was taken after the crash.
An unidentified Navy man who flew to the Nimitzfrom Jacksonville in a rescue helicopter said when he arrived to ferry the injured to Florida,
"people were still running around not knowing what to do."
The ship, carrying about 3,000 sailors and 2,500 airmen, started back on the 500-mile voyage to Norfolk shortly after the crash.
Among the dead were all three crewmen aboard the Marine EA-6B.
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