Navy Admiral Calls Fighter Jet Crash Inferno a ‘Miracle’ April 8, 2012

Navy Admiral Calls Fighter Jet Crash Inferno a ‘Miracle’

Yesterday, a US Navy fighter jet crashed into an apartment building in Virginia. Predictably, the religious are calling the disaster a “miracle.” Their justification in this case is the fantastically improbable fact that no one was killed. They have, however, managed to overlook the blazing inferno and widespread property destruction.

It's a miracle!

Admiral John Harvey came out with his religious sentiments, although he distinguished himself by at least recognizing his revelations had no place in official reports:

“I don’t speak for anybody’s religious beliefs, but the mayor and I both agreed that if you want to define a miracle, what happened here yesterday meets that definition for me”…

Put yourself in the Admiral’s position. A jet crash in a civilian area is the kind of thing that gets Admirals fired. This is a national incident that calls for heads to roll… unless maybe nobody was killed. It is certain that stateside, U.S. casualties would not be written off as a simple accident.

This calls to mind the low-flying antics of two Navy pilots that sent 20 Italians to their deaths in 1998. Flying at over 500 mph and about 300 feet off the ground, well under half the allowable altitude, that pilot sheered through a ski lift cable. The gondola, full of skiers, crashed to the ground. The U.S. military claimed jurisdiction and chalked up the incident to bad maps. The pilots were dismissed for destroying a tape but served no jail time.

Lest we think there were no miracles hidden in the loss of those 20 Italian lives, a military mechanic assessed the situation like this:

“It was a miracle he didn’t lose that right wing,” said a military mechanic who saw the Prowler after it landed. ”It was a miracle he didn’t get into a tailspin and crash.”

Maybe the mechanic was being too candid about military priorities. The families were eventually awarded just $2 million per victim, only 75% chargeable to the United States. (U.S. quibbling about its “obligations” forced the Italian government to step in for initial payments.) Replacing a crashed jet entirely would have cost the military over $50 million with no arguments.

The investigation is underway to determine the causes of the Virginia crash. The pilots are in the hospital, the talking points are out, but the facts and the outcomes are still unclear. Hopefully transparency and accountability will be the outcome of this most recent military disaster. Now that would be a miracle.

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • So things that didn’t happen are miracles?

  • CEP

    Yes, a “miracle” that no one was hurt will draw the attention away from the fact that someone either screwed up or genuinely made a bad mistake.  So every time we have something like this, the military/private airline pilot/train engineer should say, “Hey, at least zero or only a few people were hurt.  God was surely looking out for us!”

    I was stationed at Aviano when the Feb 1998 incident occurred.   The locals were very upset with military personnel and we were warned to keep a low profile.  Some people started to take revenge by slashing tires with AFI plates.  My friend’s van and home was vandalized and we were fortunate no one was hurt. ( BTW, it was 20 Europeans killed, mostly Germans and Belgians per the article and from what I recall by being there.) 

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    They would still call it a miracle even if people had died. He simply would have said it is a miracle more people where not killed. With religion it is always a win win no matter what.

    On a side note my cousin is in VA beach at the moment and took the picture below of one of the buildings.

  • It’s not certain that anybody was to blame. It might have been an undetectable mechanical failure that led to the crash. You know… what’s usually called an “act of God”. Maybe there were two “miracles” here!

  • Marguerite

    The mayor also called it a “Good Friday miracle.”

    My father lives in Virginia Beach, near the flight path, and F-18s fly low overhead all the time. I grew up in the shadow of those planes (Phantoms and Tomcats back when I was a kid), and so I’ve been following this story closely. I knew at some point, someone would call it a miracle. When it was reported no one had died, I said to my kids, “This is probably as close to a miracle as anything gets– but I mean miracle in that wildly-statistically-unlikely way, not in a God-saves-some-people-and-murders-others-randomly kind of way.”  

    Which is to say that I think “miracle” is often shorthand for, “Man, how freaking lucky was THAT?” Of course most people mean it in a vaguely religious sort of way, but if they stopped to think about it for ten seconds, or if you pressed them on it, most would likely acknowledge that they really don’t believe God goes around saving people just because it’s Good Friday, or because he was in a particularly nice mood that day, nor that on other days he goes around slaughtering people because he has PMS or a hangover or whatever. I think this is just one of those things people say, without thinking it through very carefully.

  • FSq


    Yes, the idiot types have to try and tag this with religious overtones and stupid verbology, but I would suggest being careful about assigning blame/second guessing the pilots.

    I am a pilot and it boils my blood when people who have little to no aviation experience think they “know what happened” or strive to make uneducated guesses.

    This crash occurred just after take-off, the most critical time of any mission, and the time when pilot and aircraft are most vulnerable to trouble.

    No, it is not a miracle that people didn’t die anymore than it is a miracle that grass grows. It simple is as it happened. However, the pilots’ (there was a flight instructor and student pilot) kicked in – allegedly – and they were able to direct the plane to a better crash-zone and both eject to relative safety.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    This is the best explanation I’ve read yet…


    Investigators, witnesses and experts said multiple factors were at play:

    – Most of the F/A-18D jet’s fuel was dumped before the crash, causing less of an explosion.

    – The Navy credited neighbors and citizens with pulling pilots away from the flames after they safely ejected.

    – The plane crashed into the apartment complex’s empty courtyard, and two days before Easter in the middle of the day, most residents weren’t home.

    “At the end of the day,” said Daniel O. Rose, a former Navy jet pilot, “I think it was a lot of fortuity. You look at this as a one-off and you still got to scratch your head.”

  • Anonymous

    It’s fascinating to see how selective God’s miracles can be. Guess he works in mysterious ways.

    By “mysterious” I of course mean “arbitrary and capricious.”

  • Pseudonym

    There are two common meanings of the word “miracle” (we’re ignoring any religious-jargon-specific meanings). One is a “supernatural event”, that is, a suspension of the laws of nature. The other is any highly improbable event.

    When people use the word “miracle” in a non-religious-jargon sense, they could mean either. By the principle of charity, we shouldn’t assume they mean the former if they actually intend the latter.

    But I like your definition. Maybe we should use the word “miracle” to refer exclusively to averted disasters.

  • Anonymous

    Hemant’s article is clearly discussing claims made of the religious kind of miracle for this incident, not the chance type of miracle.     So no charity is required.   

  • Anonymous

    It’s would also be a religious miracle if everyone in the building died except one guy.   The miracle being that he didn’t die too.    I guess the expectation is that every accident have a 100% fatality rate when in fact that is the exception even for passengers on airplane crashes.   Most people walk away.

  • Anonymous

    As in this quote: “Broadly speaking, the numbers are compelling. From 1983 to 2000, the National Transportation Safety Board investigated 26 major commercial accidents involving 2,739 people. A total of 1,525 survived, or 56%.”     Fifty six percent is most.   

  • Extra points for a child.

  • I’m glad you wrote something about this. I often hear religious rhetoric thrown around after a horrific event and it always annoys me but usually if you point it out people will inevitably consider you heartless or cruel.

  • JD

    This calls to mind the low-flying antics of two Navy pilots that sent 20 Italians to their deaths in 1998.

    What an irrational, irresponsible correlation.  Nothing in this mishap has given any indication it had anything to do with aircrew “antics.”  Nice jump to judgment.  What happened to the atheist reliance on verifiable facts?
    It does “call to mind” the F-18 mishap in 2008 that killed a family in San Diego.  But don’t let recency or actual physical similarity get in the way of your demagoguery.
    Your great angst over the word “miracle” is juvenile. Not unlike your spasms over “Tebowing” last December, you are displaying a hypersensitive overreaction to a nonevent.  You’re doing the cause proud.
    If that’s the worst thing the MAAF has to worry about right now, things can’t be that bad.

  • Reminds me of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, where a very experienced pilot (‘Sully’) with thousands of hours of experience was able to safely land a plane on the Hudson River.  By calling it a Miracle, it fails to give credit to the humans that deserve it.

    In the Virginia case, the zero fatalities includes that the pilot trainer used his thousands of hours of training and his rationality in the face of crisis, to escape the plane, using parachutes manufactured by humans for that exact purpose, packed by humans, maintained by humans, quality control by humans, used properly by the two humans relying on them, etc.. Then, the credit is giving to an invisible man in the sky. If there is any ‘miracle’ it is that people still believe such superstitious nonsense. 

  • Because it’s always good when God destroys your apartment and burns all your stuff.

  • Keulan

    I read an article on this event in my local paper recently (either yesterday or today), and that bit where they called it a “miracle” bugged me too. Yes, it was so miraculous that a plane crashed, doing lots of property damage, instead of staying in the air. And of course, as others pointed out already, it would still be a “miracle” to some people even if there had been some deaths from the crash.

  • Anonymous

    Assuming that magical Yahweh in the sky did want to perform miracles then I have to wonder why he’d not just stop the plane from crashing at all or have it land softly in a nearby open air display of feather mattresses.  How about having it float out of the sky and land on the roof of a mega church of the denomination favoured by miracle Yahweh and his magical reviving son who is him?

  • Anonymous

    Messy miracle.

  • Anonymous

    You forget the third possibility: mechanical failure

    And all indications are that it was an engine malfunction this time. Some people reported hearing it making unusual noises for example

  • CEP

     I totally agree.  I should have added mechanical failure and I regret it.  Especially after reading your reply, Peterson’s, and then the pilot’s comments at the top.  You are all very correct. 

  • It was an Easter MIRACLE!
    In the meanwhile,  5 people shot in Tulsa, 3 dead.
    GAWD must’ve been on his freaking break or something.

  • digitalatheist

    In other words, Shit Happens. None of us know how we will react until the crap hits the fan. There have been pilots who stayed with they’re craft til it hit the ground. Pilots who had no choice because they were incapacitated, and pilots who choice to pull the handle and eject. In each case the had to react to what they saw/felt as their duty.

    “god” has nothing to do with this case. The pilots did what they felt was their duty at the time.

  • Agreed. I have no idea what the details were. I don’t think I implied any fault on any side with respect to the crash itself. Please be specific if I did. I did refer to the Italian incident which was seems very clearly to be pilot negligence, but the main purpose of the reference was related to the shady and callous US politics not the pilot error.

  • Mile

    But Jay, it’s a miracle the other two survived!

error: Content is protected !!