Marines rescued off Southern California coast
SAN DIEGO — Two Marines who ejected from their crashing jet fighter spent more than four hours in the Pacific Ocean before they were plucked from the water early Thursday.
The men were in serious but stable condition at Naval Medical Center San Diego. Their names and details of their injuries were not immediately released.
The two were aboard an F/A-18 Hornet that went down while flying with another jet that reported it missing around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday and noted debris in the water.
The Navy and U.S. Coast Guard began an air and sea search that included dropping a flare to illuminate the area.
Before dawn Thursday, the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Edisto heard the Marines yelling for help and blowing a rescue whistle about 35 miles off the coast and about 85 miles southwest of San Diego.
"They were just basically floating in the water," Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Henry G. Dunphy said.
A helicopter lowered a rescue swimmer, who plucked the Marines from the water about 2:30 a.m., Dunphy said.
It was unclear what survival gear the Marines might have had, and what conditions they faced in the water. The jet was not recovered.
The aircraft was based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Messages seeking comment from representatives at the San Diego base were not immediately returned.
The Hornet, a twin-engine jet that can dogfight and attack ground targets, is a mainstay of the Navy's carrier force and has served in recent Middle East combat.
However, various models have been involved in a number of fires and crashes in recent years.
In April, two pilots were killed when their F/A-18F Super Hornet crashed during a training flight in a field near the Lemoore naval air station in Central California. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
The same month, an F/A-18C Hornet caught fire in the air over an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. The pilot was unharmed.
Another Hornet sustained at least $1 million damage when its engine caught fire on March 30 aboard the USS John C. Stennis during a training exercise about 100 miles off the San Diego coast. Eight sailors, a Marine and two civilians were injured. The Navy has said debris in the engine is the suspected cause of that fire.
On Dec. 8, 2008, a Hornet with engine problems crashed in the University City area of San Diego, killing four people on the ground and incinerating two homes.
The military disciplined 13 members of the Marines and Navy after the crash, which was blamed on mechanical problems and a string of bad decisions that led the pilot to bypass a potentially safe landing at an air station.