NAVY F-14 CRASH KILLS 5 NEAR NASHVILLE AIRPORT

Published: Monday, Jan. 29 1996 12:00 a.m. MST

A Navy F-14 crashed Monday morning into a neighborhood near Nashville International Airport, killing at least five people.

Mayor Phil Bredesen said the two crew members were killed, as well as three people on the ground.The death toll could go higher, he said.

At least three houses were struck by the fighter, which had taken off from Nashville International Airport on a training mission, Navy officials said.

The plane was attached to an F-14 squadron at Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego.

Bredesen said three of the confirmed dead were an elderly couple and one other person at a house hit directly by the plane.

Witnesses said a huge fireball erupted when the plane crashed shortly before 10 a.m., and at least three houses burned.

"I heard something like a missile, then the whole house shook," said Bryant West. He said the crash site was about 200 yards from his home.

The crash site is a middle-income suburban neighborhood with brick houses, less than a mile southeast of Nashville's airport. The airport has an adjacent facility for the Tennessee Air National Guard.

Emergency crews were fighting fires from the crash two hours after the plane went down. A tall column of black smoke could be seen for miles.

Don Isert was driving toward the airport when he saw the fighter crash about 100 yards from his car. He saw the plane go up and then back down through the clouds.

"It was moving so fast I couldn't even tell what shape it was, and then this huge fireball erupted and the heat came through the glass of my car," Isert said.

"It was so hot even through the glass of my car."

Other witnesses said they saw no signs that the crew had ejected.

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