Navy jet goes down

PENDLETON, Ore. – All four crew members of a Whidbey Island Naval Air Station jet that crashed Friday near here ejected safely, Navy officials said.

The EA-6B Prowler, a radar-jamming jet, went down during a training mission Friday in a remote area about 10 miles south of the Columbia River.

Two of the crew members walked away, and two required assistance, according to Oregon State Police troopers at the scene.

All four were transported to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Pendleton, where they were treated and released. One of the crew members had a broken leg, and the other three had cuts and bruises, hospital spokeswoman Gloria Larson said.

She added that all of them were in good spirits.

The plane is attached to Whidbey’s Electronic Attack Squadron 135, said Petty Officer Jon Rasmussen, a Navy spokesman.

The plane was flying at low altitude, but there is “not typically anything in the area that it might have hit,” said Cheryl Seigal, a spokeswoman for Umatilla County Emergency Management.

Following the crash, the Navy announced that it would ground all its aircraft for half a day next week for a safety review.

Grounding of the flights is not related to any specific equipment or flying problem, the Navy said, but rather to refocus on safety, risk management and other procedures.

The plane went down just before 11:30 a.m., said Kim Martin, a spokeswoman for Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. Umatilla County activated its emergency operations center and dispatched several fire departments to the scene.

Seigal said witnesses on the ground saw four parachutes open.

The names of the crew members were being withheld, Seigal said. She also would not confirm whether any of the fliers had suffered injuries until after Navy officials notify relatives about who was involved.

Rasmussen said there were no serious injuries. The squadron normally is assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz when the ship deploys.

The EA-6B Prowler carries a flight crew of up to four, including the pilot. The radar-jamming jets frequently make training missions to Oregon, often to a practice at a bombing range near Boardman. The Prowler crashed about 25 miles from the Boardman range, Seigal said.

The fliers were rescued about an hour after the crash, Seigal said. Emergency management spokesman Pete Wells said the fliers were found about 300 yards from the crash site. Wells described the site as in a canyon about 100 yards wide and 300 yards long.

The crash area was cordoned off and is being guarded by the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office, the Oregon State Police and emergency management personnel pending a Navy investigation, she added.Two other military planes were in the area at the time of the crash, Seigal said.

The EA-6B prowler is a radar-jamming jet used to confuse or disable ground missiles. The jets also have the capability of firing missiles at ground radar installations.

In November 2001, a Prowler from the Whidbey base crashed on the Olympic Peninsula, followed a week later by the crash of a Prowler flown by Marines out of Cherry Point, N.C. Both crews ejected and suffered only minor injuries.

A Navy investigation found that the crashes were caused by a defective bearing in the right engine, which years earlier had been recommended for redesign.

There was no immediate indication of what caused Friday’s crash.

The Prowler is a Vietnam War-era jet used by the Navy and the Marine Corps. Most of the Navy Prowler squadrons travel on aircraft carriers, but some have been land-based to support troops in Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

All Navy EA-6B squadrons are based at Whidbey.

In July, the Navy announced that the Prowler’s replacement, a version of the F/A-18 Super Hornet, also will be based at Whidbey. The Navy plans to phase out the EA-6Bs over the next decade or so as the new plane is produced.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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