PERRIS, Calif. — The F-16 fighter jet that crashed into a Riverside County warehouse was carrying live ammunition, officials said Friday.
Col. Tom McNamara, the vice commander of the 452nd Air Mobility Wing at March Air Reserve Base in Perris, said the specifics of the armament package wouldn’t be discussed due to security reasons.
An Air Force fact sheet on the F-16 states the armament could include a cannon with 500 rounds, missiles and munitions.
Speaking to FOX5 on a phone call Friday, Retired Air Force Pilot and Former Air Craft Investigator Rich Martindell said the F-16 was likely one-of-two F-16’s that are always on alert, ready for air combat if needed. He couldn’t say for certain, but said it’s common practice for those jets to be equipped with 4 misles.
“There are two types of missle,” Martindell said. “One is heat-seeking, and one is radar guided, and an F-16 can carry both.”
The package was secured and will be properly disposed of, McNamara said.
However, an evacuation perimeter of three-quarters of a mile stayed up for most of Friday despite the armament being taken away.
“The other issue is the auxiliary power unit on the F-16 is powered by hydrazine,” Martindell explained. “When it burns, it gives off toxic fumes and so they are concerned about hydrozine leakage.”
As of Friday, the cause of the crash remains unconfirmed by Air Force officials.
The crash left 13 people injured, said Dr. Michael Mesisca with Riverside Health System. Three people remain in the hospital and are stable, said trauma surgeon Dr. Megan Brenner. No one sustained life-threatening injuries.
The pilot of the F-16 ejected before impact just off the end of the runway, Maj. Perry Covington said. The pilot was taken to a hospital to be checked out but has no major injuries, said base spokesman Reggie Varner. The pilot is doing well, but hospital representatives refused to say whether he is among the three people who are still hospitalized.
Some patients went through a decontamination process because of fume exposure and debris, Mesisca said.
Mike Johnson, the CEO of the company located in the warehouse, confirmed all employees at the warehouse were safe.
“Thank God everyone is safe and OK,” Johnson said in a statement to CNN. “We’ll have to see what this means for the company, but right now our concern is with our employees and their families.”
The warehouse is owned by See Water, Inc. The company offers products and solutions to HVAC, commercial, residential, utility and wastewater industries.
Perris is located south of San Bernardino.