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David Erick Bergstrom
Lieutenant, United States Navy
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Courtesy of CNN: June 2000

An F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot and a crewman died Sunday afternoon when their jet crashed near a Philadelphia-area neighborhood during an air show.

The names of the pilot and radar intercept officer were not immediately released. The jet was part of Squadron 101, which is based at Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A panel of senior naval aviators will be convened to investigate the cause of the accident, said Mike Maus, a spokesman for the Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, in Norfolk, Virginia.

The F-14 banked steeply, wavered and plunged into woods about 4:43 p.m. some 100 yards from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, located about 15 miles north of Philadelphia. The station is the site of the annual Sounds of Freedom air show.

Flames and smoke billowed up seconds after the crash, but houses in the area suffered no damage. Residents and spectators were uninjured, although three emergency personnel including a military firefighter were treated for injuries.

It was the second deadly crash of a military plane at an air show in three months. In March, an Air Force F-16 fighter jet crashed while performing maneuvers as part of an air show near Kingsville Naval Air Station in Texas, killing the pilot.

Taking part in the second-to-last performance of the day, the Tomcat apparently was demonstrating a landing "wave-off" maneuver, in which a pilot approaching an aircraft carrier is waved off and must then circle and come in for another attempt.

Bruce Baldus, 34, said he was among the spectators watching as the plane turned, faltered and sank toward the trees.

"When he got below the trees, you could tell he was in trouble. It looked like it fell out of the air," Baldus said. "It was only a second, and then there was smoke and a huge fireball."

Harry Byrne, a lawyer attending the air show with two of his children, told CNN by telephone that the pilot appeared to lose control after the wave-off. 

Byrne said he had been taking pictures throughout the show but did not capture the crash on film.

"I took a picture of it as it came over me," he said. "And two seconds later, it crashed. It was unbelievable."

Debi Mullen said the crash frightened her 5-year-old son, Kyle, who eagerly watches planes at the base and idolizes the fliers. She and Kyle were sitting by a swimming pool with other family members watching the show when the plane plowed into woods behind the house.

"The leaves were flying, the debris was flying," Mullen said. As smoke rose from the woods, she said, "You could smell the fuel."

"He (Kyle) said to me, 'Who's the bad guy who hit him out of the sky?' said Mullen, 37, her eyes brimming with tears. "I said, 'There is no bad guy. He fell. It was an accident.' What a tragedy."

For some Willow Grove residents, Sunday's crash confirmed their worst fears.

"Every time the air show comes to town, I just say, 'Stay up there, stay up there,'" said Marie Dardaren, who often watches the hot glow of engines as fighters climb steeply from the runway two blocks from her house.


June 19, 2000

At least two people were killed Sunday when an F-14 Tomcat participating in an air show crashed into a residential area in Horsham, Pennsylvania, officials said.

Officer George Mood of the Horsham Township Police Department confirmed two fatalities. He said three other people were being treated for minor injuries.

The jet was taking part in an annual air show at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, just north of Philadelphia.

Harry Byrne, an attorney attending the air show with two of his children, told CNN by phone that the F-14 had been coming in for what he described as a "wave-off" maneuver.

The pilot approached the runway for a simulated landing and "it looked fine," he said. The jet was then waved off -- as planned -- and turned to the right. At that point, Byrne said the plane appeared to lose control and crashed into a wooded field near a residential area.

"The jet dove into a grove of trees," Byrne said. "You could see a huge fireball and smoke."

The crash occurred at 4:43 p.m. EDT, according to Aydin Levent, supervisor at the Montgomery County dispatch services.

Byrne said he had been taking pictures throughout the show, but did not capture the crash on film. Before the accident, Byrne said that air show announcers had said there were two pilots on board. Byrne said he did not see the pilots eject before the crash.

"I took a picture of it as it came over me," he said. "And two seconds later, it crashed. It was unbelievable."

A woman working at a gas station about three miles from the naval air station said she saw the plane go down.

"It looked to me like he was coming in for a landing," said Lisa Brown. "He was level, he didn't go nose-down."

The crash forced some residents from their homes. Mood said the Red Cross was setting up a temporary shelter for those residents while authorities investigate. He did not know if any houses were damaged.

Local police and firefighters were assisting military personnel at the crash site.


From a press report: 20 June 2000

NAVY SAYS PILOTS, USED TO THE F-14, WERE TRYING TO AVOID NEARBY HOUSES THE PLANE WAS ABOUT 200 YARDS FROM A ROW OF HOMES. SAID THE MILITARY: SAFETY OF OTHERS IS THE FIRST CONCERN.

Federal and military investigators yesterday searched through the wreckage of the F-14 Tomcat that crashed Sunday at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, trying to determine what caused the jet to bank sharply and then plunge to the ground.

Killed were Lieutenant William Joseph Dey, 30, a pilot who grew up in central New Jersey, and Lieutenant David Erick Bergstrom, 31, a radar intercept officer. Both graduated from the U.S.Naval Academy in 1992 and were with the Navy eight years.


BERGSTROM, DAVID ERICK, LT, USN (Age 31)

On Sunday, June 18, 2000, due to a fatal air crash at Naval Air Station, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, Lieutenant David Erick Bergstrom of Fairfax, Virginia. Cherished son of James and Catherine Bergstrom; loving brother of Karen Goers and Patricia Ahrens; beloved uncle of David, Daniel and Darren Goers, Holly and James Ahrens. A funeral service will be held 9 a.m. July 5, at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Arlington, Virginia, where friends may gather at 8:30 a.m. Interment Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of your choice.


Press Report: 3 July 2000

NAVY SETS PLANS TO CLEAN UP FUEL AT JET CRASH SITE IT WILL REMOVE ABOUT 80 GALLONS TO PREVENT SEEPAGE INTO GROUNDWATER, AND TREES AND BRUSH SPLASHED BY FUEL.

Navy officials plan to conduct a monthlong cleanup of jet fuel that spewed from an F-14 Tomcat after crashing during an air show outside the Willow Grove Naval Air Station on June 18. The crash killed two airmen.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection researchers approved the cleanup last week, saying that the spilled fuel could pose a risk to groundwater if the soil is not removed soon. The agency also requested that fuel-splashed trees and brush be removed.


F-14A Crash PHOTOSF-14A Crash PHOTOS

F-14A Tomcat ILLUSTRATION
Photos & Illustration Courtesy of CNN


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