A New Jersey Air National Guard jet fighter crashed in a remote section of the Pine Barrens in Burlington County yesterday, starting a fire that scorched at least 90 acres of woodland. The two fliers aboard ejected safely before the crash and were reported to have sustained minor injuries.
The plane, an F-4E Phantom of the Guard's 108th Tactical Fighter Wing, went down in a heavily wooded area southeast of Chatsworth, N.J., at 4 P.M. while on a training mission from McGuire Air Force Base, 20 miles to the north. It exploded upon impact in a region of scrub pine, part of the preserve that covers one million acres in southern New Jersey.
The resulting fire was brought under control in about two hours.
The pilot, First Lieut. Benjamin J. Zerbey, 29 years old, of Florence, and the flight systems operator, First Lieut. Michael L. Cunniff, 29, of Cedar Grove, were rescued by a state police helicopter and taken to Walson Hospital at Fort Dix. Lieutenant Cunniff was reported to have sustained a shoulder separation and possible broken arm. The hospital said both men were being held for observation.