F-15 crashes in Knox County

File photo of an F-15C.
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Knox County - The Federal Aviation Administration says an F-15 fighter jet crashed in southwestern Indiana Wednesday morning. It was a single passenger plane from the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Fighter Wing.

The state's fire marshal, Roger Johnson, says the pilot ejected safely. Capt. Jim Jensen with the Indiana Air National Guard in Terre Haute said the pilot apparently was able to walk to a police officer and was taken to Vincennes Hospital to be checked.

"It sounds like he's fine," Jensen said.

Residents called authorities after seeing the pilot parachuting.

Capt. Jamie Melchert, a spokesman for the Missouri National Guard, said there were no reports of injuries on the ground. "We're thankful and fortunate for that," he said.

Jail Officer Shawn Brown with the Knox County Sheriff's Department said he was not sure whether there were homes near the crash site.

Members of the Indiana Guard's 181st Fighter Wing were heading to the site to secure it, the Indiana Guard said.

A witness told an Evansville television station that he saw two jets dogfighting before the crash.

"I saw one of them make a loop and start to lose altitude," he said. "Then all of a sudden I saw the pilot eject, the seat separated from him and I saw the parachute open. Then all of the sudden, the jet hit the ground. I saw a billow of black smoke and then a big old ball of fire."

Views from Chopper 13 showed a fire still burning at the crash site at 12:30 pm and a large area of scorched earth. The plane appears to have crashed in a field. According to a military press release, the plane crashed in the Military Operating Area (MOA) Red Hills.

The military says the aircraft was conducting standard training maneuvers as part of a four aircraft formation. It confirmed that the incident did not involve a second aircraft.

The 131st Fighter Wing is headquartered at Lambert Field in St. Louis.

The crash occurred close to the Illinois/Indiana border near the Wabash River. The crash location is about 25 miles south of where two F-16s collided mid-air three years ago in May 2004. One of the pilots was killed, and the second parachuted to safety.

The accident is currently under investigation.

The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable tactical fighter, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

The crash is the third of a fighter jet in southern Indiana since 2001. In addition to the 2004 crash, in July 2001, an F-16 from the 181st Fighter Wing crashed just over the Indiana-Illinois state line near Parkersburg, Ill., about 70 miles southwest of Terre Haute. The pilot ejected safely.