Air Force jet crashes into a mountain, pilots ejected

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Air Force jet crashes into a mountain, pilots ejected

A Korean Air Force F-16D fighter jet crashed Wednesday during a training drill in Cheongsong County, North Gyeongsang after taking off from an airfield 88 miles away, the Ministry of National Defense said.

Two pilots ejected safely.

Air Force officials speculated engine trouble was the cause of the crash. The plane crashed into the side of a mountain 322 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Seoul around 4 p.m. and caused a fire, local authorities said.

No damage on the ground was reported.

The plane was under the command of the 19th Fighter Wing based in Chungju, North Chungcheong.

An official from the Air Force said the pilots were aware of the malfunctioning engine during their flight and that they intentionally steered toward the mountain to prevent any damage to people or property.

At least five helicopters and 80 fire extinguishing personnel from the Korea Forest Service were mobilized to the scene to douse the blaze. The fire was ongoing as of press time.

Around a hundred civil servants from the Cheongsong County Office were evacuated from their building due to toxic smoke.

The pilots were transported to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, for medical treatment, according to the Air Force.

The Defense Ministry formed a task force to investigate the crash.

Purchased from the United States in 1992, the Korean Air Force currently owns seven F-16D fighter jets. The other six were grounded after the accident.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JEONG YONG-SOO [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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