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Marine pilot rescued off Florida Coast

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The rescue crew removes the gear of the downed harrier jet pilot from their 47-foot motor life boat.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Coast Guard rescued a Marine pilot Tuesday after his aircraft plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of St. Augustine, Florida.

The Marine, who was in the water for more than four hours, was returned to Florida for medical treatment.

The Coast Guard said the pilot was suffering from mild hypothermia, but he appeared to be in good condition.

The U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier went into the water about 20 miles east of St. Augustine. Witnesses reported seeing a parachute deploy from the aircraft, and the pilot's wingman saw him eject, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard and Navy began searching for survivors immediately.

Coast Guard rescuers transported the pilot to Naval Station Mayport, near Jacksonville, Florida, where the rescuers are stationed.

The Harrier "jump jet" is a single-seat combat aircraft that can take off and land vertically, giving it the flexibility to operate from a variety of ships and makeshift airfields.

Because it can hover in midair, or fly at near-supersonic speeds, it is particularly well suited for combat air support over Marine ground troops, according to the Marine Corps Web site.

The plane was based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina, and was on a routine training mission, Marine officials said.

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