Videos show fighter jet crash into parking lot during Michigan air show

Dramatic videos shared on social media show a fighter jet that was performing at a Michigan air show crash into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex.

The pilot and “backseater” of the demonstration plane, a MiG-23, were forced to eject from the fighter jet mid performance on Sunday at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show at the Willow Run Airport east of Ypsilanti, officials from the Wayne County Airport Authority (WCAA) confirmed in a statement Sunday evening.

One Wayne County resident, who said he watches the air show every year, told Newsweek in a phone interview that he witnessed the jet go down and described Sunday’s crash as “unreal.”

A MiG-23 fighter jet performing at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show crashed on Sunday, August 13, 2023. A photo captured by Taylor Lang and shared with Newsweek shows the plane’s wreckage in an apartment complex parking lot.
Courtesy of Taylor Lang

Newsweek reached out via email on Sunday to WCAA officials for comment.

Shortly after 4:00 p.m., the plane performing at the Yankee Air Museum’s annual air show plummeted into the parking lot at the Waverly on the Lake Apartments in Belleville, Michigan, according to the WCAA, which manages and operates the Willow Run Airport. The aircraft’s two occupants did not appear to have sustained any significant injuries, officials said, adding that first responders transported the pair to a nearby hospital as a precaution.

The fighter jet struck unoccupied vehicles in the apartment complex’s parking lot before becoming engulfed in flames, emitting a plume of black smoke, videos show. No one at the apartment complex nor the air show was injured, WCAA said in the statement. It was unclear at the time of publication what caused the plane to crash but WCAA officials said that the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident.

The crash halted the air show, with officials asking attendees to leave the event, according to a post on the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show Facebook page Sunday evening.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a situation that requires us to stop the show,” the Facebook post states. “Please make your way into your vehicles and calmly make your way out of the airfield. Please be patient as we control traffic around the area.”

Mike Gatteri, 43, of Belleville, Michigan, told Newsweek that he witnessed the crash while watching the air show from his boat in Belleville Lake. He described the incident as “surreal,” saying it was a “miracle” that no one was seriously injured.

Gatteri said the incident “happened right over top” of his group of roughly 30 family and friends who were enjoying a “Sunday Funday” on the water when he noticed one aircraft performing in the air show was flying abnormally low. Seconds later, he said the plane went down, causing an “incredibly huge” fireball.

He shared photos of the massive explosion and aftermath on Facebook.

“It was just surreal,” Gatteri told Newsweek. “It was a very somber, sad kind of conversation afterwards and everyone was on their phones trying to figure out what was going on making sure everyone was okay. I mean, it’s a pretty populated area. So, you know, to avoid the apartments, avoid all the houses avoid all the boats on the lake and land in an area that didn’t hurt anyone was it’s a miracle.”

Gatteri said that while the crash occurred just a quarter of a mile away from where he was on the lake, he heard “no sound” during the incident other than “popping” when the pilots ejected.

“We come out to the air show every single year and we watch it on the lake and it’s always an amazing show,” Gatteri said in the interview. “It’s just absolutely unreal to see what happened today. But thank God everyone’s okay.”

Social media users shared jaw-dropping videos of the crash on X, formerly Twitter.

Just after 4:20 p.m. ET, Dan Phillips shared a video on X that shows the fighter jet going down as the two pilots ejecting before the plane crashes.

“Video of plane crashing at the Thunder Over Michigan Air Show and pilots parachuting. Hoping everyone is ok. #thunderovermichigan,” Phillips said in the post.

Several social media users also posted footage of the fiery aftermath.

Rachel Keiko Schramm shared a video on X that shows thick black smoke filling the air above moments after the crash. The post also included a photo of the jet at the air show prior to the incident.

“Please pray for everyone’s safety – a jet went down at Thunder Over Michigan Air Show but pilot was able to eject,” Schramm posted. “So scary! Photo of reported jet beforehand (MiG). #thunderovermichigan #airshow”

Daniel Maier posted several clips on X that show the fiery crash site, which appears to be right next to an apartment building.

“Willow Run Air Show Crash,” Maier captioned a 16-second clip on the social media platform just before 4:30 p.m. ET.

In a video shared by Maier several minutes later, multiple ambulances and fire trucks can be seen responding to the crash.

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