Editor's note: This article was first published at 3:30 p.m. on April 14 and has been updated.
One sailor remains hospitalized and three others are in recovery after an arresting cable snapped during a carrier landing in a rare and terrifying flight deck mishap on March 18.
Sailors on the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower's flight deck saw the landing go horribly wrong in an instant that Friday afternoon. An E-2C Hawkeye snagged the metal cable stretched across the deck. But the plane didn't slow, instead careening down the runaway and plunging over the edge, according to a squadron member who has spoken to eyewitnesses and those injured. watched on that Friday afternoon as an E-2C Hawkeye hit the cable stretched across the deck, then careened down the runway and off the edge.
Behind it, the cable came unhooked from the port side of the deck and whipped around towards the superstructure, striking eight members of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 123.
after the carrier Dwight D. Einsenhower's arresting cable snapped, injuring eight sailors on the flight deck off the coast of Virginia, according to a source familiar with the squadron whose plane was trying to land when the accident occurred.
Their injuries range from cuts and bruises to a skull fracture and multiple broken bones, according to the squadron member, who asked not to be identified amid an ongoing investigation. asked not to be named.
It had been more than 10 years since an arresting cable, a thick rope of wires that catches an aircraft's tail hook to slow it down and complete a carrier landing, has parted on a carrier deck, according to Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Mike Kafka.
One maintainer is still at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Kafka confirmed.
The sailor was treated for a severed blood vessel that nearly resulted in a foot amputation, the VAW-123 member said. He was scheduled to go home April 7last Thursday, he added, but has had to stay to treat an infected skin graft.
He is the last of four flown off the ship and treated either at Sentara or Naval Medical Center Portsmouth on March 18. Their injuries included a fractured skull, broken arms, legs and ankles, and dislocated hips. The rest were treated on the ship, according to a Navy release.
On Friday, a day after this story posted, an image of a cranial reportedly smashed in the March 18 cable accident was to uploaded to photo site imgur with the note, "This cranial saved a shipmate's life during the incident onboard the USS Eisenhower on March 18. Never forgo safety. Ever."
The plane itself made it back to Naval Station Norfolk undamaged, but not without surviving a harrowing near-miss. The pilots said that rather than the arresting gear slowing them down, they jet hit the cable all at once, he added. The Hawkeye went nose-down off the bow, but had enough momentum to pull up just before hitting the water.
"It came back, but it had friggin' salt water on the bottom of it, it was that close," the sailor said. "The pilots were all shaken up," he said. "One of them, you could tell it messed him up, because they thought they were going to die."
Ike resumed flight operations two days later, and a week after the incident, only one sailor was still in the hospital.
In the meantime, the VAW-123 member said, the chain of command has been providing updates on the guys' conditions and visiting the one hospitalized sailor.
"There's no brain damage as far as I know, but they're both looking at medical retirement, I bet," he said of two of the squadron members who'd been hospitalized. "The other two, I can't imagine how long rehab's going to be for two broken ankles, and the other guy with rods and pins in his legs."
The command investigation into the incident is still in progress, Kafka said.