Christian Broadcasting Network


David Darg


  • Manager, Mayfair Mews Apartments, for 11 years

Earl Mawyer

By Zsa Zsa Palagyi, 700 Club

On Good Friday, April 6, 2012, a Navy Fighter Jet (FA/18D Hornet) experienced dual engine failure and crashed into a Virginia Beach apartment complex shortly after takeoff from the Oceana Naval Air Station. The two man crew ejected, just 50 feet above ground. The jet's impact into the senior-living community resulted in a four-alarm fire, with numerous fire engines and emergency responders called to the scene. Twenty-seven units were destroyed. Residents, neighbors, TV viewers of the tragedy, and even the Mayor of Virginia Beach were certain that there would be mass casualties. Responders were ready with body bags.

Fifty-six year-old Earl Mawyer, the manager of Mayfair Mews Apartments for 11 years, was headed out of town with his two granddaughters when he got the call from his assistant, Ben, a few minutes after noon reporting that a Navy jet had crashed into his apartment community. Earl remembers, "When he first called me, he was screaming. He was saying 'The place is blowing up, the apartments are blowing up.' First he said a bomb, and then he said a jet. My phone rang, one call after another. Each call got bigger than Ben's call. I said, 'God this is big, this seems really big.' I was shaking. 'But whatever is going on I just place you right there in the midst of the apartments.' Our minds make us think this is going to be big, this is not going to be good... but our faith can say 'God you're bigger.'"

Earl feared there would be 20 or 30 tenants dead. He turned around and headed back to the scene, where he became the "go-to" liaison for the fire, rescue, and navy personnel, as well as for those who lost their homes in the crash. "As soon as I could see the property, I immediately pictured a few people that could not have made it out," says Earl. "I just grabbed my heart and I knew.... Mr. Burr was in his apartment, his car was there. He's a loner. No one had accounted for him. I was 100% sure he was dead. I can think of another certain person... when people told me what buildings were burned up, I just knew it took 20 minutes for this one to walk to the trash. It was probably one of the hardest emotional things I've had to deal with--- one of those times that you have to have God in your heart to help you through it."

Prior to coming to The Mews, Earl lived a life filled with drugs and alcohol, and he spent time in prison. But God saved him out of that and cleaned up his life-performing one miracle after the next to set him on solid ground and give him a second chance. As a result, Earl strongly believes that God brought him to Virginia Beach for a purpose. He had been praying for his community and residents for years. "When I took over as manager, I always prayed for the Mews and I already prayed for the tenants and for protection over the Mews," Earl reports.

In the midst of the jet-crash emergency, he turned to prayer and asked God for a miracle. "I just prayed that he would be with everybody there and that nobody would be suffering. I just knew I was going to hear these terrifying stories of people burning."

There were 64 apartments in Earl's community. He knew exactly how many people were living there. Earl was determined to track down every tenant, no matter how long it took. Since his office had been destroyed, Earl worked out of his truck. After five hours and dozens of calls, his list of missing persons dropped from 84 to four. He feared that those four were trapped a few hundred feet away under smoldering rubble-and continued his quest to make contact with them. Earl knew the firefighters had been searching through the rubble, but as it headed towards 10 pm, it became harder for rescue workers to make an accurate assessment of the situation in the dark. Still, Earl continued searching for numbers and making phone-calls from a dimly-lit parking lot, where he'd "set up office" in his truck.

Earl finally retired to an emergency shelter, but knowing that four of his residents were still unaccounted for, he wasn't able to sleep. "I just remember going to the room that night and I kept pacing the floor and praying, Dear Lord, out of all of this there are four people not accounted for, I just prayed we would find them or they would show up. We didn't know if they were burned up. Nobody knew."

People around the world waited to hear if the four missing from The Mayfair Mews had perished. Saturday brought great news! Two of the missing four tenants showed up at Earl's makeshift office and the other two called-in. Prayers were answered and miraculously, no one was killed in the 64 unit senior-living apartment complex. (Only one animal died, an 11-week-old kitten.) Since The Mayfair Mews is a senior community, death is not uncommon. Earl has seen an average of three residents die each year he's been there. But no one died on Good Friday 2012. What could have been a tragedy is remembered more today as a miracle! Earl declares, "It couldn't have been in a better apartment.. it was the perfect place for the jet to crash: the way it landed, the way it stopped in middle of courtyard. The way the buildings went around and kept the fire and explosions in a cave, whereas it could have gone out more. All that fuel could have gone out so much further."

One of his tenants said a ball of fire came straight to his door and stopped. That tenant has a son in a wheelchair. The fireball would have blown out the window and the man and his son would have died. "After experiencing this, I don't think I'll ever underestimate or doubt anything with God," Earl concludes. "I just look up at the sky and say you're just too big. It's just such a big miracle. You're just too big. Sometimes with God we doubt, but after being right here and being right here in the middle of this, I think I'd be a fool to God's power. It's a little wake-up call. We always have to be ready. Life is just a vapor. I just don't think we can take life for granted. We have to be prepared in the world we live in. It's not just a jet falling from the sky, we could be in the midst of a terrorist attack in the mall. We just have to give our lives to God. He doesn't want us to fear any of this, but the thing is we have to give our lives to God and whether we live or die, we will be protected. "