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Military jet crashes in California desert town, no injuries

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Jose Santos/AP

(Read caption) A military jet crashed in a residential neighborhood in Imperial, Calif., Wednesday. Witnesses say two houses caught fire after the crash.

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A US military jet careened into a Southern California residential neighborhood and exploded in flames on Wednesday. The crash destroyed two homes but resulted in no injuries.

The Harrier jet crashed in Imperial, Calif., a desert town of 15,000 people near the US-Mexico border, 90 miles east of San Diego, at around 4:20 p.m. local time.

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The pilot bailed out of the plane before the crash and parachuted safely onto a nearby field. 

Debris from the plane struck and destroyed one house, according to Marine Lt. Col. John Ferguson, an executive officer for the Marine Aircraft Group 13 based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz. The subsequent explosion totaled a second home and severely damaged a third.

One witness, Leonard Olmeda, was racing remote-controlled cars nearby with several neighborhood children when the plane fell from the sky.

“It was a big flash, a bunch of black smoke, like a mushroom effect,” Mr. Olmeda said.

Eleven-year-old Christopher Garcia, who was watching television with his family in his living room two blocks away, told AP that the explosion "felt like an earthquake."

The residents of eight houses were evacuated from the neighborhood during the subsequent investigation and cleanup but have since returned to their homes, according to officials

The plane was en route from Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma to Naval Air Facility El Centro, according to Colonel Ferguson.

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Later Wednesday night, a second military jet, a Navy Super Hornet, crashed into the ocean off the Southern California coast while preparing to make a late-night landing on an aircraft carrier.

"The pilot ejected from the aircraft, was recovered safely, and is currently aboard [aircraft carrier] Carl Vinson in stable condition," Navy spokeswoman Lt. Reagan Lauritzen said.

There have been a handful of military jet crashes in the past six months.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.