A supersonic jet fighter smashed to the ground and exploded into flames yesterday in a narrow clearing between two suburban houses as dozens of children watched at a nearby school.
The pilot was killed, but no one else was injured.
Excited fifth graders shouted “Look, look, it’s falling” as they watched the delta wing F-102 Delta Dagger fighter plane dive a short distance away just after taking off from McClellan Air Force Base. A kindergarten teacher was explaining about airplanes to her class in the school yard when they saw the plane falter, then slam into the earth.
The school is less than a mile from the scene.
The pilot, 1st Lt. Daren G. Webster, 26, had just taken off to return to McChord Air Force Base in Washington, his home base. McClellan spokesmen said that Webster, of the 318th Fighter-Interceptor Group, had landed at McClellan to refuel.
His plane, spitting fire from the tailpipe, hit between homes owned by F. J. Valline at 6904 24th Street and Laddie Klement at 6840 24th Street, in a clearing about 25 yards wide.
Valline’s Fence was burned, a shed in the Klements back yard was destroyed and his garage was singed, but neither home was damaged.
“It seemed like the whole earth was afire. I took the kids and got out.”Mrs. Klement, at home with her two small children when the accident took place.
Kenneth Michael, fifth grade teacher at Vineland School, said he heard a muffled explosion and saw the flames and smoke rising.
“The kids got so excited I couldn’t control them,” he said.
Sounded Like Others
Neighborhood residents are accustomed to the comings and goings of planes from McClellan, less than a mile away.
Mrs. Helen Valline said: “It sounded just like all the others that come so close at first. Then there was a kind of a muffled boom and we knew he’d had a flame-out.”
Webster is survived by his widow Carolee, a daughter Dianne, 3, and a son, Daren, 1, of Tacoma. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Webster, of Larkspur, Calif.
The fighter-interceptor pilot Had just been sworn in as a regular Air Force officer Tuesday in ceremony at McChord AFB.
Information for this article comes from the San Bernardino Sun and the San Mateo Times.