An Army helicopter crashes, 2 pilots dead

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An Army helicopter crashes, 2 pilots dead

A Korean Army 500MD light utility helicopter crashed on a farm field in Namyangju, Gyeonggi, on Wednesday night during a drill. Two pilots were killed.

The incident happened a day after two Korean Air Force F-5 fighter jets crashed into a mountain near Daegwallyeong in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, taking the lives of three pilots.

The cause of the helicopter incident is not yet known, said an Army officer in charge of public relations.

The Army and Air Force are conducting probes of the accidents.

An officer said the chopper crashed around 8:30 p.m. The pilots were warrant officers Park Jeong-chan, 45, and Yang Seong-un, 32. They were rushed to a nearby hospital where they were pronounced dead. No civilian casualties were reported.

The 500MD, owned by the 109 Aviation Unit under the Korean Army Aviation Operations Command, took off from Deokso base in Namyangju at around 7:10 p.m., the officer said.

“The exercise was intended to train Yang, a beginner pilot, to fly at nighttime under instructions from Park,” said the officer. “We are investigating the precise cause of the accident. For now we are scheduled to hold a funeral ceremony for the pilots [today] at 9 a.m. at the Armed Forces Capital Hospital. We are consulting with the surviving families on how the ceremony will take place.”

The military officer added that weather conditions at the time were not poor enough to ground helicopters.

During the period between the time the helicopter first took off and its crash, the chopper landed and took off twice. The accident happened while the helicopter was on its third flight, said the officer.

Another Army officer said the helicopter had been manufactured in 1978 in the United States and Korea had been operating it since.

He added that 320 500MD were imported to Korea between 1976 and 1988, with 250 equipped as utility helicopters and 70 as attack helicopters.

Attack helicopters can be installed with TOW antitank missiles.

Due to several accidents and mechanical problems, currently only 110 utility and 30 attack helicopters remain in operation.

In the meantime, the Air Force said it identified the bodies of the three pilots from the F-5 through DNA testing. “We had to conduct separate DNA tests as the bodies were severely damaged in the crash,” an Air Force officer said.

After consultation with the families of the three deceased pilots, the Air Force decided to hold funeral ceremonies tomorrow at 9 a.m. at Gangneung Air Base where the aircraft were stationed.


By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]
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