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Neighbors say pilot’s suit caught fire as he parachuted from Lake Worth plane crash

·3 min read

Monica Wilson and her husband live two houses down from where a Navy jet crashed in the back yard of a Lake Worth home on Sunday morning. She had just taken her grandchildren inside from the back yard when she heard the crash that injured both pilots.

“I’m still hearing it now,” she said hours after. “It’s not something that I’ll be able to forget.”

Wilson and her husband saw a pilot coming down with a parachute. His flight suit caught fire when he hit a power line down the road at Olé Donut, she said. Wilson said she saw a Careflight helicopter come into the area.

Her grandchildren were terrified at the sound, Wilson said, but she was able to calm them down and get them back to their parents’ house.

The emergency response was startlingly fast, she said. First responders from Lake Worth, Saginaw and Fort Worth were already arriving in the area before she fully understood what happened. They must have been alerted that the aircraft was having problems and mobilized to respond before the crash, she concluded.

Sitting in a folding Buc-ee’s chair in front of her house next to her sister, Vanessa Morales, Wilson said she wasn’t sure she wanted to sit outside and watch as police and military personnel came and went on the other side of the yellow police tape, bordering the right side of her front yard. But she couldn’t make herself get up and go inside.

Instead, she took video and photo of what was happening. One video she took after the crash shows plumes of smoke billowing from behind her neighbors’ houses.

Wilson said it took a couple of hours before she started to process how serious the crash was — and how close it was to her home.

“Now it’s unnerving to live here,” Wilson said. “Now it’s gonna make me nervous when the planes fly through.”

Rey Martinez said he’s lived in his home on Dakota Trail for about 17 years. When he heard the loud noises, he stepped outside.

“When I came out, I saw the smoke, so I followed the smoke and that’s when I saw the plane on fire,” Martinez said.

He and a neighbor walked toward Olé Donut, the shop at the end of the block, and saw something hanging from the power lines, he said.

“We saw something hanging and [said], ‘Hey, I think that looks like a parachute or something.’ We went over there, the guy was still on the ground,” Martinez said. “He was on fire.”

The paramedics showed up quickly, Martinez said, and put out the fire with extinguishers from the donut shop.

Martinez also saw debris scattered in the neighborhood, including the seat of the plane that the pilot ejected. And just down the street, he saw the house where the plane itself had crashed.

“It was just a lot of fire,” he said.

The fire was contained to the plane, but the three homes were damaged by debris from the crash, officials said. No residents were injured. Both pilots from the training flight were taken to local hospitals with serious injuries.

The accident also caused electrical outages within a two- to three-block radius, and the power may be out for a few days while the wreckage is removed from the area, authorities said.

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