WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) — Authorities say one person was rescued in the Atlantic Ocean off Wrightsville Beach after a pilot parachuted from what they believe was a jet as it went down in flames.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Sansoucie says a hotel guest saw a person eject as the aircraft went down in flames shortly before 5 p.m. Friday.
When Coast Guard rescuers arrived on the scene, they found a Navy aircraft with two swimmers had picked up the pilot and hoisted him into the helicopter. Sansoucie says it’s unclear if the pilot was injured.
Sansoucie says no one else was on board.
“We can confirm that a pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 542, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing ejected from an AV-8B Harrier at approximately 5:05 p.m. off the coast of Wilmington, N.C.,” said Marine Lt. Maida Zheng.
“It almost looked like somebody dropped a bomb in the water,” a witness said in an interview with Star News Online, adding that she first thought she saw a whale, but then realized it was a parachute..
“When it first happened, I thought it was a military practice thing,” Haley said. “Once I saw more military helicopters and planes fly in and the Coast Guard get involved, I knew it was real.”
The pilot has been reported as being in stable condition, according to WLOX, a local news station in the area.
Coast Guard officials say they believe the aircraft was a jet. Several squadrons of AV-8B are based at Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock.
A USMC Life staff reporter contributed to the piece.