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U.S. pilot dies as F-16 crashes into South Korea rice paddy

June 14, 2001 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot was killed late Tuesday when his plane crashed into a rice paddy in South Korea. The crash occurred about 10 p.m. as the pilot was on a training mission from Kunsan Air Base.
Air Force authorities would not say what unit the pilot was attached to at Kunsan. The 35th and 80th Fighter squadrons, both equipped with F-16s, are assigned to the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan.

The aircraft was not carrying live ordnance. The plane crashed about 40 miles southeast of the base.

It is not known whether the pilot ejected from the plane. South Korean news agencies reported the pilot's body was found about 150 feet from the crash site.

There were no injuries on the ground, said an official in the village office at Supung in Imsil County where the crash occurred. The official, who would not give his name, said the plane crashed into a rice paddy, destroying newly planted rice but damaging no buildings.

He said the plane burned after hitting the ground.

Air Force officials have cordoned off the site to ensure the safety of residents. A board of officers will investigate the incident.

It was the second F-16 crash in South Korea in a week. On June 7, a South Korean F-16D slammed into a hillside near Andong, about 150 miles southeast of Seoul.

Both men ejected safely and there were no injuries or damages on the ground, an air force spokesman said. The spokesman said the pilot of that plane aimed the aircraft for the hill before ejecting to prevent it from crashing into a nearby village.

Kunsan is a small base on the Yellow Sea about 150 miles south of Seoul. There are about 2,700 U.S. airmen and some 170 U.S. soldiers who man Patriot missile batteries at the base. About 1,250 South Korea airmen and soldiers also are assigned to the base.

The last reported U.S. crash at Kunsan occurred in August 1999 when one F-16 collided with another while landing at the base. The pilot of the plane that caused the collision ejected safely and the aircraft hit a hillside and burned. The pilot of the second plane landed safely and was not injured.

Several live bombs dropped from one of the two aircraft and fell into the sea at the end of the base runway. They did not explode, however, and were recovered by an explosive ordnance disposal team.