National Guard fighter jet strafes New Jersey school
November 4, 2004
LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. – A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition, authorities said Thursday. No one was injured.
The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School shortly after 11 p.m.
Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school at the time heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.
Police Chief Mark Siino said officers noticed punctures in the roof. Ceiling tiles had fallen into classrooms, and there were scratch marks in the asphalt outside.
The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a target on the ground three and half miles away from school, said Col. Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. He does not know what happened that led to the school getting shot up.
The plane was 7,000 feet in the air when the shots were fired. The gun, an M61-A1 Vulcan cannon, is located in the plane’s left wing. It fires 2-inch-long bullets that are made of lead and do not explode, said Webster.
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“The National Guard takes this situation very seriously,” said Lt. Col. Roberta Niedt, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The safety of our people and the surrounding communities are our foremost concern.”
Schools in New Jersey were closed Thursday because of a teachers convention.
Webster would not identify the pilot or detail possible disciplinary measures.
Mike Dupuis, president of the township’s Board of Education, said school workers are mindful that the firing range is nearby.
“Being so close to the range, that’s always in the back of our minds. It is very scary. I have children in that school and relatives that work there,” he said.
The range has been used by the military since the end of World War II, long before this area of south Jersey was developed.