Wichita Falls, TX Training Jet Crashes, May 1995


Wichita Falls, Texas (AP) - An Air Force training jet billowing black smoke crashed into an apartment complex Wednesday, engulfing one building and several cars in flames. At least two people were killed and 20 injured.
The T-38's two pilots ejected just before it went down and parachuted onto a high school athletic field. They were not seriously hurt.
The plane, which had just taken off from Sheppard Air Force Base, experienced some sort of mechanical problem, the Air Force said.
It was trailing smoke and pieces were falling off just before it crashed, said Renee Stephens, a witness.
"It sounded just like a bomb," she said. "There was a big mushroom cloud and the whole building was consumed by flames."
Witnesses said the plane just missed two schools and a daycare center before smashing into the 120-unit Amber Falls Crossing apartment complex four miles from the base. One of the 11 buildings in the complex was hit; four apartments in that building were destroyed.
"It took out about six cars," said Eric Struve, who works at a restaurant nearby.
The two people killed were identified as JOSEPH ROBERT WOLFE, 77, and EDELMIRA CORBETT WOLFE, 83, of Wichita Falls. They were visiting the complex, and WOLFE was standing on a sidewalk, with MRS. WOLFE in a car when the plane hit, said police spokesman Melvin Joyner.
All but one resident of the apartment complex was accounted for a few hours after the crash, said Air Force Col. Bill Orcutt.
Of the 20 people injured, 19 were treated at hospitals and released, including the two pilots. One man was being evaluated at Wichita Falls General Hospital, said spokeswoman Kim Cragar. Most of the injured suffered smoke inhalation, ankle injuries and bruises.
The pilots, who were not identified, were assigned to the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard. One was an American student pilot and the other, from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, was an instructor. Both are part of a Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot training program, said Lt. Col. Mike Laughlin, a base spokesman.
"The pilots are extremely distressed about what happened," Orcutt said.
"But from what we know, it was a mechanical problem. There was nothing they could do."
The cause of the crash is under investigation, the base said in a statement.
The T-38, a twin-engine, two-seater, was manufactured by Northrop.
A number of witnesses said they saw the Air Force jet clip another plane shortly before the crash, but military officials discounted the reports.
"It was not possible," said Sgt. John Bisio, an Air Force spokesman.
"We have confirmed there was only one Air Force plane in the air at the time."

Standard Speaker Hazleton Pennsylvania 1995-06-01