The aircraft carrier USS Lexington arrived at its home port Monday for an assessment of damage caused by the crash of a training jet that killed five people and critically injured a West Valley City, Utah, sailor.
Petty Officer Tom Hushion said the carrier arrived at the Pensacola Naval Air Station shortly after 8:30 a.m. MST.The injured Utahn, Mark Anthony Lopez, 21, was in critical but stable condition at the University of South Alabama Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Monica Knight said.
A second injured sailor from the Lexington was admitted to West Florida Regional Medical Center and later transferred to the naval hospital at Pensacola. Her identity was not immediately available.
Brian Keeter, a spokesman in Washington for Rep. Earl Hutto, D-Fla., said Pentagon officials briefed the congressman and reported that three aircraft on the Lexington's deck were damaged when the T-2 Buckeye jet crashed on the World War II-vintage carrier shortly after 2:30 p.m. MST Sunday, touching off a fire.
"We understand that, after it hit the island (or control tower) of the aircraft carrier, it flipped over and ran into a row of parked planes," Keeter said. Two of the parked planes received major damage and one received minor damage.
"We understand that the plane came in flying too low, was waved off by people on deck (but) came in anyway," Keeter said.
"There was a fire, because the aircraft fuel ignited. That, however, was contained fairly shortly," Keeter said.
Navy officials in Pensacola identified one of the dead as Ensign Stephen E. Pontell, who was the pilot of the jet that crashed. Pontell was based in Meridian, Miss.
The Lexington, which left Pensacola last week for routine training exercises, was in the Gulf of Mexico about 30 miles from Pensacola when the accident occurred.