Pensacola, FL (In Gulf Of Mexico) Jet Crashes On "LEXINGTON" Oct 1989



Pensacola, Fla. (AP) - A jet practicing take-offs and landings crashed into the tower of the aircraft carrier Lexington, then cartwheeled and burst into flames on the flight deck, killing five and injuring two, authorities said.
The two-seater T-2 Buckeye jet, based at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Miss., crashed Sunday afternoon during the training mission about 30 miles south of Pensacola in the Gulf Of Mexico.
The pilot approached too low for a landing and deck crewmembers tried to wave the flier off before the crash, according to Rep. Earl Hutto, D-Fla.
The plane hit the tower of the 46-year-old aircraft carrier, flipped over and slammed into a row of parked planes, said the congressman, who was briefed by Navy officials.
Aviation fuel immediately ignited on the 889-foot-long blacktop deck, but the fires were quickly brought under control, said Navy Cmdr. Dennis Hessler.
The crash caused major damage to two aircraft on the ship and minor damage to another, said Army Maj. John Smith, a Pentagon spokesman.
The Lexington, the Navy's oldest aircraft carrier, was not damaged extensively. It was due to arrive today at its home port in Pensacola, said Navy officials.
The ship, which came under a deadly Japanese kamikaze attack 45 years ago this week, has 1,440 crewmembers and is the Navy's only aircraft carrier used exclusively for training.
After the crash, helicopters flew the casualties to hospitals in Pensacola and Alabama.
Crewmember ANTHONY LOPEZ, 21, of West Valley, Utah, had second-and-third degree burns covering about 45 percent of his body, and was listed in critical but stable condition, sand Suzette George, nursing supervisor at University of South Alabama Medical Center in Mobile.
The other person injured was being treated at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Pensacola.
The dead also were taken there. The names of the fatalities are:
ENSIGN STEVEN E. PONTELL, 23, Pilot, of Columbia, Md., a 1988 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
PETTY OFFICER 3rd CLASS BURNETT KILGORE, JR., 19, of Holly Springs, Miss.
AIRMAN LISA L. MAYO, 25, of Oklahoma City, Okla.
Civilian Employee BYRON GERVIS COURVELLE, 32, of Meridian, Miss.
In Pensacola, relatives of crewmembers worried about finding out who the casualties were.
"We're all just shaken. We don't know what to think one way or the other. I just want to know something," said Cathy Webb, whose boyfriend serves on the carrier.
The crash occurred six days before the anniversary of the Nov. 4, 1944, attack that killed 47 and injured 127 on the ship in World War II.
The original crew plans to hold a reunion next weekend in Pensacola.
Commissioned Feb. 17, 1943, the Lexington's planes sank or destroyed more than a million tons of Japanese shipping and 1,039 enemy aircraft during World War II.
The carrier was dubbed "The Blue Ghost" by Japanese propagandist Tokyo Rose because she had reported it sunk several times only to return to battle painted a solid blue-grey color, unusual in wartime.
After the war, the Lexington was mothballed until being reactivated in 1955. It reported to Pensacola on Dec. 29, 1962, to serve as the Navy's training carrier. It is scheduled to continue that role after moving next September to Corpus Christi, Texas.
The ship has been a favorite of movie producers with roles in the film "Midway" and the made-for-television mini-series "War and Remembrance."

Logansport Pharos-Tribune Indiana 1989-10-30