BREAKING: Wrightsville Beach beachgoers witness Marine Corps Harrier jet crash, recovery

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A New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office boat was part of a response to a U.S. military jet crash on Friday afternoon that caught the attention of several beachgoers on Wrightsville Beach.

A U.S. Marine Corps spokeswoman said that an AV-8B Harrier from the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point crashed off of the North Carolina coast on Friday afternoon at approximately 5:05 p.m.  A Coast Guard rescue helicopter from Station Wrightsville Beach retrieved the pilot, the spokeswoman said, but his condition was not known.

Witnesses saw the plane crash from the beach, observing an eye-catching splash, followed  by a quick response from the military and from local police. The pilot ejected from the plane.

“It was almost like a geyser,” said Brooke Hefele, visiting from New York City, who was on the beach near the Holiday Inn and beach access no. 8. “At first, I thought it was a boat crash.”

Hefele said she was impressed at the speed at which rescue crews arrived. Planes circled the crash spot while a helicopter retrieved the pilot, she said.

The jet was part of the Marine Attack Squadron 542, Marine Aircraft Group 14. The cause of the crash is still under investigation

Wrightsville Beach police secured a spot on the beach by access no. 8 where the crash was first reported. The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office sent a boat to the scene, mainly to help secure debris from the wreckage. Lt. Jerry Brewer of the sheriff’s office said that the U.S. Coast Guard would monitor the debris until the military finished its cleanup. The debris was unlikely to wash ashore as the tide was heading out, Brewer said.

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