F-18 jet crashes into apartments in Virginia next to elementary school (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Both pilots safely ejected from the plane that moments later crashed into a residential area in Virginia Beach.

Seven people have been reported injured in the incident. US Navy Captain Mark Weisgerber blamed a "catastrophic mechanical malfunction" for the crash.

Commander Rosi from the US Navy said the aircrew of the plane, which belonged to the VFA-106 strike fighter squadron  based in Oceana, have been taken to a nearby hospital. They, as well as five other people admitted to local hospitals are not in life-threatening condition.

Witnesses said two apartment buildings near the crash site were on fire, and rescue workers searched for potential casualties. Military police was also on site. Interstate 264 has been closed down. Thick black smoke could be seen rising from the scene.

Officials say three people remain unaccounted for as rescue workers searched the damaged apartment complex.

One of the first people on the scene told CBS news that he helped move one of the pilots to a safe distance from the blaze. According to the witness, the pilot was conscious and apologized profusely for crashing into the apartment complex. 

Reports also suggest at least one apartment building has burnt down completely. Overall, at least 5 buildings and 20 apartment units have been affected by the fire.

Several people have also claimed the fighter jet was seen dumping fuel just before the crash, in order  to avoid an explosion upon impact.

Fire officials say Birdneck Elementary School will open as shelter for displaced residents following the crash.

F-18 jets are used by the military for combat operations as well as for aerial displays. But this crash, unfortunately, is not an isolated incident for the US Navy Force fighter jets. The most recent crash involving an F-18 Hornet took place almost exactly one year ago, when 2 crew members died after the jet collapsed moments after takeoff in central California.

Another F-18 crashed into a residential area in San Diego in 2008, killing four people on the ground and destroying a number of houses. In 2011, an F-16 fighter-bomber crashed on landing at an air base in southern Italy after completing a mission in Libya. An F-15 jet also crashed while on a mission in Libya that same year.

Zack Zapatero′s photo from the scene of the FA-18 crash in Virginia Beach.
Zack Zapatero's photo from the scene of the FA-18 crash in Virginia Beach.
F18 crash site, tweeted by @INFOen140.
F18 crash site, tweeted by @INFOen140.
The plane′s ejected seat (photo by Ross Grogg @wrossgrogg).
The plane's ejected seat (photo by Ross Grogg @wrossgrogg).
"Image from a friend who lives near the apartments in Virginia Beach that the F-18 crashes into," says @Andrew_Brandt in Twitter.
"Image from a friend who lives near the apartments in Virginia Beach that the F-18 crashes into," says @Andrew_Brandt in Twitter.
Photo from the scene of F18 crash in Virginia Beach, via WAVY, tweeted by @nycsouthpaw.
Photo from the scene of F18 crash in Virginia Beach, via WAVY, tweeted by @nycsouthpaw.
Ladder truck up and running from birdneck village apts parking lot (photo by Ross Grogg @wrossgrogg)
Ladder truck up and running from birdneck village apts parking lot (photo by Ross Grogg @wrossgrogg)
Aerial view of F-18 crash in San Diego
Aerial view of F-18 crash in San Diego
Added by Branden Sherman to WTKR NewsChannel3 account in Facebook.
Added by Branden Sherman to WTKR NewsChannel3 account in Facebook.
A fire truck working at the scene of the FA-18 crash in Virginia Beach, tweeted by @PilotPhotoland
A fire truck working at the scene of the FA-18 crash in Virginia Beach, tweeted by @PilotPhotoland
The plane′s 2nd ejected seat, tweeted by @djpostl
The plane's 2nd ejected seat, tweeted by @djpostl
The plane′s ejected seat, tweeted by @kandidrops
The plane's ejected seat, tweeted by @kandidrops