This took place around the summer of 1967 when VMFA-334 had just received their new F-4Js. I was a new, wet behind the ears LCpl fresh out of ‘A’ School and working on the first aircraft of my Marine Aviation career. My job was to assist a Sgt with replacing the generator on a C-117 (R4D).
A Phantom began its rollout so I turned around to watch. The aircraft lifted off, went nose high, flamed out, turned 180 degrees, landed backwards and exploded. This all happened close to the crash crew so they were there in an instant. Word was the RIO had punched out and received a broken leg or arm but the pilot stayed with it and walked away.
Driving to work a few days later, I saw it hauled away on a flatbed trailer. It was covered in soot from the RIO seat back but otherwise looked fine.
MCAS El Toro