Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Pilot saved from power line after fighter jet crashes in France

Belgian air force pilot rescued after crash during training mission

Local authorities evacuated eight homes after the fighter jet, a US-made F-16, crashed. AP
Local authorities evacuated eight homes after the fighter jet, a US-made F-16, crashed. AP

An F-16 fighter jet from the Belgian air force crashed in western France on Thursday, with both pilots successfully ejecting but one spending two hours hanging from a power line.

Parts from the stricken plane, which was not carrying weapons and was flying from Belgium to a French base on a training mission, crashed into houses in the Morbihan region around the town of Pluvigner. No one was hurt.

"The pilot and the co-pilot were able to eject before the crash," the office of the state representative for the region said. "They were both located and are alive.

It said one pilot had become tangled with a high-voltage power line and was left hanging from his parachute.

The pilot was finally cut loose after a two-hour rescue effort, the office said.

"It was a sensitive and long operation," senior local official Pierre Clavreuil said in Pluvigner.

"It needed a lot of sangfroid," said Cyrille Berrod of the Morbihan fire brigade.

The pilot dangled from the parachute cords, which had become ensnared by a cable next to the electricity pylon.

The plane was heading on a training mission to a French naval airbase close to the town of Lorient.

The Belgian air force has said an engine failure is believed to be behind the crash. EPA
The Belgian air force has said an engine failure is believed to be behind the crash. EPA

Belgian air force commander Frederik Vansina said in Brussels that the accident appeared to have been caused by an engine problem with the plane, which was built in 1983.

But Cmdr Vansina said that an investigation would provide further details. He said both pilots were in hospital but should return to their families in Belgium as soon as Thursday evening.

Relatives of the pilots were expected to visit them in hospital during the evening, Morbihan officials told AFP.

Local security forces evacuated eight homes containing 15 residents. Mr Clavreuil said one home suffered substantial damage.

"The lady in the house was in a state of shock and taken to hospital," he said.

Pluvigner resident Patrick Kauffer told local newspaper Le Telegramme that the "wing of the plane took out part of the roof of our house. The damage was serious".

Mr Kauffer said the crash also set fire to his shed and some trees.

The Belgian Foreign and Defence Minister, Didier Reynders, said on Twitter: "I am relieved that our two pilots are safe and sound after the crash of the F-16 and there was no victim on the ground."

The Belgian military "will take care of them and their family. An investigation is under way", Mr Reynders said.

Updated: September 20, 2019 12:50 AM

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