JET CRASH KILLS CREW, 3 IN HOME.
A Navy F-14 fighter jet heavy with fuel for a return trip to California crashed in a huge fireball in a neighborhood Monday, demolishing three houses and killing five people.
Three of the dead were in a house that took a direct hit from the Tomcat, as the F-14 is known. The others killed were the plane's two-member crew.
"One guy was just sitting in his couch. He never had a chance. They were all just sitting where they were," said Firefighter James Dean.
The fighter had taken off from Nashville International Airport on a training mission, returning to its base at the Miramar Naval Air Station near San Diego.
The fireball could be seen for miles from the wooded, working-class neighborhood of brick homes where the crash occurred under overcast skies.
The fighter jet hit one house, engulfing homes to either side in flames and littering the neighborhood with plane parts. Pieces of an engine sat in in a yard across the street; another part of the plane rested in a tree.
"It was moving so fast I couldn't even tell what shape it was, and then this huge fireball erupted and the heat came through the glass of my car," said Don Isert, who was driving near the airport.
Stasi Stubblefield, who lives a half-mile from where the plane crashed, said: "It looked like it was going directly down . . . nose down."
The cause of the crash was not immediately known. The Pentagon sent a team of investigators.
The Navy identified the pilot as Lt. Cmdr. John Stacy Bates, 33, originally of Chattanooga. The radar interceptor officer was identified as Lt. Graham Alden Higgins, 28, from Dover-Foxcroft, Maine.
Neither ejected before the crash.
Bates was involved in another crash off the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln last spring, Navy officials said. His fighter squadron has had four accidents in the past 16 months, including the October 1994 fatal crash involving Lt. Kara Hultgreen, one of the first women to qualify for a Navy combat aviation assignment.
The squadron was transferred to the USS Kitty Hawk in October.
Elmer Newsom, 66, and his wife, Ada Newsom, 63, were killed in their home, police said. A visiting friend, Ewing T. Wair, 53, also was killed.
Kenny Newsom, 37, left work as soon as he heard about the crash but said he knew his parents were dead as soon as he saw their flattened house.
The crash site is 2-1/2 miles south of Nashville's airport, which is next to a Tennessee Air National Guard installation.
Photo Dawn Williams' grandparents Elmer and Ada Newsom were killed when a Navy F-14 plane crashed into their Tennessee home. Associated Press