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Investigation underway in fiery crash of naval fueling plane in Ventura County

May 19, 2011 |  1:05 pm

Smoke rises from the runway on which a military 707 jet crashed while taking off at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu Wednesday.

One crew member suffered minor injuries in the fiery crash Wednesday in Ventura County of a plane used for midair refueling of military aircraft, officials said Thursday.

Early reports had stated that three crew members were injured, but not even the one injured person was badly hurt, said Vance Vasquez, deputy public affairs officer for Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu.

"It's a miracle," said Vasquez, "especially with all the fuel that's on the airplane."

The Georgia-based modified Boeing 707 was operated by Omega Air Refueling, a civilian company under contract to the Navy. The crew members were civilians, so naval officials had limited details about them, Vasquez said.

The aircraft crashed immediately after takeoff at 5:25 p.m. with fire crews finally knocking down the flames just after 9 p.m. The spectacular blaze, fueled by the plane's flammable cargo, sent up black smoke visible for miles. On Thursday, a flyover by ABC Channel 7 showed the charred outline of a fuselage with only the tail of the plane and its right wing still recognizably intact.

Fire crews from Ventura County and the city of Ventura assisted in suppressing the fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Smoke rises from the runway on which a military 707 jet crashed while taking off at Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu Wednesday. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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