SEOUL, South Korea — Two South Korean air force planes collided midair during training and crashed near their base on Friday, killing all four people aboard the plane, officials said.
The two planes were KT-1 trainer planes – the first aircraft developed locally in South Korea – which took off from an air force base in the city of Sacheon, in the south-east, one after another for flight training, the Air Force said in a statement.
The collision happened about five minutes after the first plane took off and about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the Sacheon base, the Air Force said.
Two people – a training pilot and an instructor – were on board each of the two KT-1 aircraft. All four ejected from the planes but were later found dead, according to the Air Force statement. The four victims were identified as two first lieutenants and their instructors, both civilian Air Force employees.
The Air Force said it would launch a task force to investigate the causes of the crash.
The Air Force said the crashes resulted in no civilian casualties on the ground and it is trying to determine if any civilian property was damaged.
Lee Seong-gyeong, a Sacheon police official, said a passenger car was destroyed after being hit by wreckage, but added that officials were not immediately aware of other notable damage. to civilian property. South Korean media published photos of the mangled vehicle surrounded by scattered machine parts that apparently came from the planes.
Local emergency officials said earlier that three bodies were found in a mountainous area and an agricultural field in Sacheon. They said they believed the planes crashed into a mountain because a fire broke out there.
Local officials said three helicopters, 20 vehicles and dozens of rescue workers were dispatched to the suspected scene of the crash. They said that a number of soldiers had also been sent there.
Friday’s incident came after an Air Force pilot died in January after his F-5E fighter jet crashed near Seoul, in an incident that prompted the country to withdraw the planes, which had been in service since the 1970s. The Air Force, after investigating the crash, said last month it was caused by a damaged hose that caused a leak of fuel in the engine, which caught fire during takeoff. South Korea reportedly operates around 80 F-5Es and plans to phase them out until 2030.
The KT-1 has been used by the nation’s air force since 2000. Sacheon was the site of another KT-1 crash in November 2003 which killed a training pilot.
Air Force plane crashes and other military-related accidents occur occasionally in South Korea, which maintains an army of 560,000 to deter possible aggression from rival North Korea. , which has about 1.3 million soldiers, one of the largest armies in the world. About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War that ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.