One view, Two cameras, Three kids

Holy Crap!!

83929100SH003_Holy Crap, you never think an international news event is going to happen right in your own neighborhood. I was on the computer Monday afternoon when I heard a sputtering jet coming ever closer. I ran outside and saw a pilot ejecting from an FA-18 Hornet as the plane was on its way down. His parachute deployed as the smoke started billowing from a neighborhood about a mile away. I ran and grabbed my camera, dropped it on the way out, totally destroying my 16-35mm, and headed for the scene with just a 70-200mm. I get there before firefighters only to witness homes, cars on fire and horrific noxious fumes in the air. I shot for about 10 minutes and all the firefighters showed-up. After about another 1/2 hour shooting, I decided to head back and transmit only to find my car sandwiched in between 2 fire trucks. I was then forced to walk home a mile, fun fun!!. What sucks is I have 4 friends all within 3-4 houses from the crash site. Waaaaaay to close for comfort. It changes your perspective as a journalist when you and your neighbors are part of the news. I found myself getting annoyed when some TV guys overheard me telling this story to a buddy and all the sudden I was swarmed with cameras in my face. “How did you feel being a parent of 3 kids knowing there might be a dead child” “How the hell do you think I feel. Oh well, I guess it’s payback for all the times I’ve stuck my lens in a subject’s face.
Anyway, in retrospect, keep your batteries charged and a card in camera because you never know when this kind of thing might happen.


28 responses

  1. mish whalen

    Thanks for sharing! What a crazy crazy story…Stay safe.

    December 8, 2008 at 10:48 pm

  2. JR Bondy

    Believe it or not, when I heard about this on the radio you were the first thing that came to mind. More fire shots, whoda thought!

    December 8, 2008 at 11:10 pm

  3. Congratulations on the front cover of the NY Times (and so sorry about your 16-35mm). I was on the 805 south just minutes after the event took place and due to the erratic behavior from vehicles on the freeway (besides the everyday) AND in the air, I knew something out of the norm was taking place.

    Your advice to keep batteries charged and a clean card in the camera is excellent.

    December 9, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    • Thanks Annie,
      Yeah, it sucks being freelance in that I have to pay for the lens out of my own pocket. Oh well, I get a new toy and a tax write-off.
      Hope all is well with you.

      December 9, 2008 at 8:21 pm

  4. Alan Fishleder

    Outstanding shot, Sandy. You put the viewer into the fire. Question: Did you actually get any sales for this or other shots?

    December 9, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    • Thanks Alan. My lungs especially appreciate the credit. I just got a regular day rate from Getty. I’m sure they made out quite a bit better than I did.
      This event hit waaaaay too close to home.
      Take care

      December 9, 2008 at 8:19 pm

  5. Consummate professional response to a breaking news scene. Fine, fine work.

    December 9, 2008 at 3:15 pm

  6. Jonathan Alcorn

    Excellent work Sandy, what a tragic story.

    December 9, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    • Hey Thanks Jonathan
      Dang, my car was just airing out from the Yorba Linda fire. Now there is this disgusting wildfire, diesel fuel, plastic smell that will probably never come out.
      Hope you’re doing well and staying busy.

      December 9, 2008 at 8:15 pm

  7. Great blogging Sandy, I used to live in UC (in Cardiff now) and I’m also on Photoshelter, where I read about this. Glad you and your kids are safe, sorry about the 16-35mm though!

    December 9, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    • Thanks Kymri.
      What a strange experience. Waaaay too close to home!
      Take care

      December 9, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  8. Wow. Not something you expect to wake up to. I’d seen your Segway image a few weeks back. Just got linked here through another unrelated feed.

    December 9, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    • Hey James,
      Yeah, what a strange experience. Waaaaay to close to home. Definitely something I don’t want to wake up to again.

      December 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm

  9. Pingback: Covering crisis: Photographer Sandy Huffaker describes the San Diego jet crash | Ask the Photographer

  10. Pingback: Photographer Got Up-Close Shots of Jet Crash

  11. What BAD luck for those who were hit. You were so fortunate. Thanks for telling the story from the neighborhood.

    December 10, 2008 at 9:58 am

  12. Pingback: Photo News Today » Blog Archive » Holy Crap!! - Sandy Huffaker, Jr.

  13. glad to know you’re safe Sandy.

    keep up the good work.. ^_^

    December 11, 2008 at 12:14 am

  14. Amazing experience! You never know what happens day to day!

    December 11, 2008 at 2:40 am

  15. Always remember, somebody is going to want to see what happened, and if you have a camera, it is your job to record it.

    December 11, 2008 at 3:32 pm

  16. Incredible. Amazing photo and story.

    December 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    • Hey Ted,
      Thanks for the kind words. Been a big fan of your work since I moved out to CA in 1991.

      December 11, 2008 at 9:51 pm

  17. Gitfidl

    He almost made it. He was on final approach but he needed a lot of luck to get it on the ground in one piece. Nobody goes up in an airplane thinking it will crash. But Murphy’s Law say if it can happen it will happen. Nobody IS to “blame.” The pilot did his best. Somewhere back in time “they” should not have approved houses that close to a runway — but then why the approach to San Diego airport — airliners practically taxi down Laurel Street? That’s dangerous (and there was a horrific crash 25 years ago). It’s even worse in Orange County at the John Wayne airport and Los Angeles County). Worse yet — trains carrying extremely dangerous cargoes through residential housing areas. All container ports are dangerous. The MOST dangerous thing you will ever do it drive on the highways (and you do it several times a day). 50,000 killed every year in traffic accidents (since 1950) By far the most dangerous.

    December 11, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    • He did almost make it. 1 more house and the plane would have gone into the canyon.
      I live in the community but have no ill will toward the marines or their training. It was an accident, and a very rare one at that.
      I actually enjoy seeing all the cool jets flying around. I’ve seen stealth bombers, Blue Angels, C-140’s and all kind of cool aircraft.

      December 11, 2008 at 10:15 pm

  18. photosbydwayne

    What an amazing shot…I think as a journalist you have to be willing to “stick your lens” in a few faces and that’s “ok”. It does not look like anyone could have done much to help the situtation except record it for everyone else etc.

    December 12, 2008 at 7:38 am

  19. jray1169

    that must have been really scary, I can only hope all your friends that live nearby were unhurt. Excellent photo.

    December 13, 2008 at 12:28 am

  20. i hope your camera insurance was paid up? i better check on mine.

    December 16, 2008 at 2:16 pm

  21. Pingback: Now that’s what I call “spot news” ‹ The PhotoShelter Blog

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