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Nov. 5, 2004. 01:00 AM

National Guard jet fires on N.J. school



LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J.—A National Guard F-16 fighter jet on a nighttime training mission strafed an elementary school with 25 rounds of ammunition, authorities said yesterday. No one was injured.

The military is investigating the incident that damaged Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School shortly after 11 p.m.

Police were called when a custodian who was the only person in the school at the time heard what sounded like someone running across the roof.

Police Chief Mark Siino said officers noticed punctures in the roof. Ceiling tiles had fallen into classrooms, and there were scratches in the asphalt outside.

The pilot of the single-seat jet was supposed to fire at a target on the ground 5 kilometres away from school, said Col. Brian Webster, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. He does not know what happened that led to the school getting shot up. The plane was flying at 2,300 metres when the shots were fired. The gun, an M61-A1 Vulcan cannon, is located in the plane's left wing. It fires 5-centimetre-long bullets that are made of lead and do not explode, said Webster.

"The National Guard takes this situation very seriously," said Lieut.-Col. Roberta Niedt, of New Jersey's Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. "The safety of our people and the surrounding communities are our foremost concern."

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