Seoul, South Korea – Two planes of the South Korean Air Force collided in the air during training and crashed near their base on Friday, killing all four people on board, officials said.
Both aircraft were KT-1 training aircraft – the first aircraft developed in South Korea – that took off from the Air Force base in the southeastern city of Sachon one after another for flight training, the Air Force said in a statement.
The collision occurred about five minutes after the take-off of the first aircraft and about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of Sachhon base, the Air Force said.
There were two people on each of the two KT-1 planes – a pilot-instructor and an instructor. All four were ejected from the planes but were later found dead, the Air Force said in a statement. The four dead were identified as the first two lieutenants and their instructors, both civilian Air Force personnel.
The Air Force said it would launch a task force to investigate the cause of the collision.
The Air Force said the disasters did not result in civilian casualties on the ground, and they were trying to determine if any civilian property had been damaged.
Lee Son Gyeong, a Sachhong police officer, said the car was destroyed after the wreckage, but added that officials did not immediately learn of other notable damage to civilian property. South Korean media published photos of the mutilated car surrounded by scattered parts of equipment, which apparently were from planes.
Earlier, local emergency officials said the three bodies had been found in mountainous terrain and on an agricultural field in Sachhon. They said they believed the planes had crashed into a mountain because a fire had broken out there.
Local officials said three helicopters, 20 cars and dozens of emergency workers were sent to the alleged crash sites. They said they also sent a number of troops.
The incident on Friday came after an Air Force pilot was killed in January when his F-5E fighter crashed near Seoul as a result of an incident that called on the country to quickly decommission those planes that had been in operation since the 1970s. After investigating the crash, the Air Force said last month it was caused by a damaged pipe that led to a fuel leak in an engine that caught fire during takeoff. It is reported that South Korea is operating about 80 F-5Es and plans to phase them out by 2030.
CT-1 has been used by the country’s Air Force since 2000. Sachhon was the site of another KT-1 crash in November 2003, which killed a pilot pilot.
South Korea has occasional Air Force plane crashes and other military-related accidents in South Korea, which holds 560,000 troops, to contain potential aggression by rival North Korea, which has about 1.3 million troops, one of the largest military in the world. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.