A Marine Corps pilot ejected safely from his AV-8B Harrier just before it crashed during a training exercise about 15 miles northwest of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The aircraft landed in an unpopulated area near Felicity, Calif. It is a total loss, officials said.
The jet was carrying two 500-pound bombs en route to the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range to drop the ordnance on targets. The bombs did not explode upon impact.
A Marine Corps explosive ordnance team was sent to the site to disarm the bombs Wednesday evening. Due the danger presented by the explosives, the area was cordoned off and guarded by military and law enforcement personnel throughout Wednesday night.
The multimillion-dollar Harrier was assigned to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 stationed at MCAS Cherry Point in North Carolina. Also known as the Hawks, the squadron trains pilots how to fly Harrier aircraft. The Hawks are in the Yuma area to conduct aerial combat training operations.
According to Capt. Staci Reidinger, director of public affairs for MCAS Yuma, the pilot ejected safely and upon landing used his cell phone to call the base for help. He was able to walk away from the scene.
After his phone call, a Search and Rescue helicopter and crew stationed at MCAS Yuma was dispatched to the area of the crash to transport the pilot. The pilot, whose identity has not been released to the public, was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center for observation.
A crash response team was ordered to the site to secure the area, begin an investigation into the matter and to initiate cleanup procedures immediately after the incident.
"The command here is working diligently," Reidinger said. "The most important thing the command wanted to make sure was the safety of the pilot and to secure the area of the crash to ensure there was no danger to people in the surrounding area."
The cause of the crash is under investigation. No other information was available as of press time Wednesday.