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Crops destroyed in F-16 bailout, Turkish farmer sues U.S. for crash damage

July 19, 2002 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A farmer in southeastern Turkey filed a suit in Turkish court Monday for $50,000 in damages, the amount he says U.S. officials promised him after an American F-16 fighter jet crashed on his farm last year.
Sabri Duman is charging that U.S. officials at Incirlik Air Base promised they'd reimburse him after the plane destroyed about 625 acres of lentils and hay when it crashed on his farm near the village of Degermendere on July 18, 2001.

Incirlik lawyers came to his farm just after the crash and had him fill out a damages claim, then promised to reimburse him for the burned acreage, Duman said.

The damages claim could have been much worse.

"The crash didn't destroy my tillers and harvesters. I was able to save them," he said in a telephone interview from his farm. The farmer added that soil tests showed no radiation from the plane's equipment, and now he's planting cotton in the fields where the crash took place.

Duman said he will donate most of any settlement he receives to his village.

The F-16, piloted by 1st Lt. Michael A. Nelson Jr., was from the 510th Fighter Squadron, which was at the time flying Operation Northern Watch no-fly missions over northern Iraq with the Aviano, Italy-based 31st Fighter Wing. Nelson was part of an ONW sortie on its way to Iraq, according to ONW public affairs officers at the time.

Nelson ejected before the crash and was uninjured. U.S. Air Forces in Europe public affairs officials at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, did not respond to a query about the crash causes.

Degermendere, site of the crash, is just outside the city of Batman, about 300 miles east of Incirlik and 50 miles north of the Iraq border.