Trial begins in Marine jet crash that wiped out University City family.

by on December 13, 2011 · 9 comments

in San Diego

By Greg Moran / SignOnSanDiego / Dec. 12, 2011

Three years after a Marine fighter jet fell out of the skies over University City and crashed into a home, the anguish of losing three generations of his family was still raw for Sanghyun Lee.

Testifying on the first day of a trial in which a federal judge will determine how much compensation the U.S. government should pay for a Dec. 8, 2008, crash of an F/A-18D Hornet, Lee described the aftermath of the catastrophe on him.

“I lost everything,” he said, his words translated by a Korean-language interpreter in the courtroom of Judge Jeffrey Miller. “The U.S. Navy took all my dreams away.”

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Editor: For background, see these (click on headlines):

After tragic crash, calls mount to move Miramar air base

University City Expresses Anger and Distrust of Military Over Crash

Miramar Jet Crash Was Preventable – 13 Punished by Marine Corps

 

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Goatskull December 13, 2011 at 11:19 am

Not only will it be interesting to hear how this pans out, it’ll be interesting if we even here the results at all. It seems like when ever this issue re-surfaces, it quickly fades and we don’t hear about it again for another year and never do hear the final outcome. What’s even more astonishing is how so few people in San Diego even know about it at all. Back when it happened it DID get a lot of local media attention as it should have. Still, beyond learning that the pilot (LT Dan Neubauer) ultimately was not charged (he WAS actually following orders) and allowed continue in his flight training and that 13 Marines (two officers and eleven enlisted) were reprimanded and relived of their duties we never heard what their final punishment was and probably never will. What’s also astonishing the nigh number of personnel who are attached to VMFAT 101 (LT Neubauer’s command) have no knowledge of this incident at all, including those who were attached to it at the time.

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avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG December 13, 2011 at 1:26 pm

We should occupy the damned gates on Miramar Rd. & off the 15 @ Miramar Way. Later, after the dust settles, we can build a newer, better but smaller commercial terminal & relieve SD airport of some of its traffic.
Once the military is gone & San Diego has adjusted to the lack of war dollars in its economy, the Mission Trails Regional Park can be expanded to the north of 52.
The Miramar memorial Golf Course can be turned into a Pitch ‘n Putt for the public.
The newer graveyard for the dead near the intersection of 805 & Nobel Dr. can remain, unless of course, it encroaches on City property, but then again if it does, Federal dollars can be used to hire local businesses to maintain the property. Next, the south side of Miramar Rd. can be developed to match the north side. Demo all that ugly military housing across from Camino Ruiz over to the 15. Put in some low-income housing w/ a few (I said a few) condos & small businesses, & you have a nice little economic base there. Limits to the Poway/San Diego sprawl will have to be enacted so the whole damned place doesn’t turn into a group of strip malls interspersed w/ houses.
Transfer all the damned war dollars from the foreign military bases, govorporation officials & lobbyists to repairing the country, & this place, the U S of A, might be worth saving.
San Diego County could have a very nice chunk of parkland stretching from the 805 to Sycamore Canyon county Open Space Preserve!
Just don’t give the land away to developers like NTC near Pt. Loma.
Oh, almost forgot, we might have to give back about 40 square feet to the indigenous people–if there are any left.

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avatar JEC December 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

Least we forget, this was why many advocated for the military to move this very active base out of residential areas. The military practices maneuvers civilians do not. It’s why the Navy relocated it’s TOP GUN school. It’s why the Marines need to also relocate.

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avatar Goatskull December 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

If it happens at all, it won’t be because of safety concern for nearby residents. Remember, it was a base long before residential development took over and that will play a factor as to whether or not it moves or just closes all together. TOP GUN didn’t leave Miramar because of residential development. Navy Pacific Fleet F-14 squadrons were moved to the East Coast because of consolidation due the big drawdown that was going on at the time. The Marine bases in El Toro and Tustin were shut down also as a result of that drawdown going on and were moved to Mirimar. All of it was based on financial decisions, not safety for local residents. Now with all that being said, with aggressive military budget cut backs supposedly in the works, who knows?

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avatar john December 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Ah, there’s nobody to jump on and attack here as even those who made points I disagree with offer the candid vision of caveats within their replies.
As someone with a background highly relevant in this issue (was stationed at NAS Miramar from 1980-83, VF-21 deploying aboard CV-43, USS Coral Sea) I’ll summarize:

This land was a Master Jet Station in the early 50’s when there was NOTHING even remotely close as far as residential community.

Most of the residential community that ended up surrounding it was actually built at the time to support and house civilians and military personnel working there- before the Marines took over on base housing for personnel (with families) was as good as nonexistent, most lived and rented off base.

The military offered this entire parcel of land to the city of San Diego for a dollar at some point in the late fifties or early sixties, they refused!

If it were turned over now by some bizarre BRAC decision we’d surely see a rehash of the obscene Corky McMillen land grab that went down at “liberty station” another scenic place I saw in the Navy. (boot camp)

The nature of deployments with the Marines being part of the Navy means close proximity to Navy Ports is highly advantageous for both quick and financially shrewd troop and equipment movements. It might be convenient for the populace to see these units move to Yuma or the like, but having them spitting distance from the ships at North Island and 32nd St. is the best thing possible.

What happened in this incident is a complete anomaly, I’ve researched it and apparantly so has Goatskull, he seems well informed on the issue. A combination of equipment deficiency in the F-18’s fuel system and a failure of the people on the ground to forsee what was going to happen as a result of their tactical plans for its maneuvering for approach, compounded by the loss of a single vital piece of information lost in the heat of the moment. It certainly was not the pilot’s fault and it’s one of those things all the planning in the world for in the future won’t prevent because it’s going to happen just slightly or even vastly different the next time.

So on the safety/risk aspect, don’t think that the military doesn’t take extreme measures to try and prevent these things but also accept that they are going to happen despite the best precautions. As they say freedom is not free and if that sounds corny look at the safety record of Russian and Chinese military aerospace operations-

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/272368/chinas_long_march_3_disaster/

and see how they try to cover it up. The personnel and operations at Miramar, my own service included, were part of preserving our somewhat flawed system safe from theirs.

Frankly to me the real tragedy is that there needs to be a trial at all here. They are bickering over whether he should be paid $985,000 or an unspecified figure just above $2 million, what a silly thing at this point. You crashed a $40 million dollar jet on the man’s house, killing his family, and are lucky a pilot it cost millions to train walked away from it. Pay up and be glad that’s all he is asking for.

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avatar Goatskull December 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I’m a little on the fence as to the pilot having no fault in this. He was offered to land at North Island by a civilian controller where he would have flown over the ocean and most likely would have safely made the landing (though we’ll never know for sure). His superiors ordered him to head to MCAS Miramar (where VMFAT 101 is based) and when the second engine conked out, was ordered to ditch the plane. Had he disobeyed his superiors he would probably been in a world of trouble, but three people would still be alive. As a Navy vet myself (20 years) I’ve learned that sometimes making the right decision can come with a heavy price tag. Had LT Neubauer followed the direction of the civilians air traffic controller he may have ended up spending time in the brig and/or kicked out of the service in a less than honorable fashion. A lose lose situation to be sure but then again, three people would still be alive and he’d probably have a better conscience. I DO feel a lot of sympathy for him (tho not nearly as much as I do for Mr. Lee). I can only imagine this has to be eating him up daily. Plus I gotta wonder what it’s like for him when he meets new people and at some point has to explain that he was the guy who ditched his plane over University City. What are the reactions he gets?

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avatar john December 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I don’t think disobeying the first order was a realistic option for him and at the time the bingo at Miramar was not one which showed immediate laibilities, the Hornet with both of its engines close to centerlne (as opposed to the Tomcat for instance) handles very well with one powerplant out and is not subject to yaw oscillations so would not be in a situation of such desperation one would tell his ops officer to stuff it as you were worried you’d fall out of the sky. The second decision well I understand the time between him punching out and the jet hitting the ground was mere seconds, all these incidents are up for discussion about how he may have ridden it out and while it’s often valid (the bozo that bailed out of an F-8 that hit hangar one at Miramar in 1969, killing 14 comes to mind) this story from when the event happened makes it evident it wouldn’t have much mattered:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/03/25/military.crash/index.html

If he punched out of a crippled plane with a zero/zero seat and looks down at the wreckage, not laterally into the distance, it sounds like he was in it until almost the end. The rockets fire you 330 ft straight up and slightly aft, which if there was any altitude left for the aircraft to utilize for maneuvering would have seen it carry on. Let’s also not forget it has the glide slope of a brick and with the engines out would have no hydraulic pressure for control inputs to be meaningful, even if he had electrical power for the fly by wire systems.

Note the reaction of Mr. Yoo and the pilot at the time.

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avatar unWASHEdwalmaRtthONG December 16, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Bummer all around.

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avatar Frank Gormlie December 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

The husband and family were awarded $13.7 million for their loss.

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