ANANTNAG: An Indian Air Force fighter aircraft MIG-21 on Tuesday crashed in mustard fields in Bijbehara area of this south Kashmir district, killing the pilot.
Eyewitnesses said the jet crashed down in the fields in Marhama village, 10 km from Awantipora Air Base, minutes after catching fire in the rear.
“We were working in the fields and suddenly heard some horrible sound. As we looked above we saw a jet catching fire. It then crashed down, prompting use to run for safety. As we looked back we saw heavy volumes of smoke emanating from the wreckage of the aircraft,” a farmer told Kashmir Reader.
Soon after the mishap, heavy contingents of army and police rushed to the spot for rescue operation.
“We reached the spot within minutes of the crash and recovered body of the pilot. Initially we believed that there were two pilots on board but later after confirming from the IAF officials it became that only one pilot was on board. The MIG-21 had taken off from Technical Airport in Srinagar,” said a top police official who was part of the rescue operation.
He identified the deceased pilot as Squadron Leader Raghu Bansi.
“IAF engineers also arrived at the spot to ascertain the cause of the mishap,” the officer said.
As news about the jet crash spread in the area, people rushed towards the site of the mishap to see the wreckage of the jet. All roads leading to the crash site witnessed messy traffic jamming. The policemen and the traffic officials failed to clear the jam for hours together.
Meanwhile, according to an army spokesman, the pilot was on a routine training sortie. “A court of inquiry has been ordered to investigate into the cause of the accident,” the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah expressed his condolences to the bereaved family of the pilot and suggested that New Delhi address the defence procurement issue of the armed forces at the earliest. “Not entirely disconnected from today’s crash the new Govt needs to sort (out) defence procurement issue for Navy, Air Force & Army ASAP,” he said on twitter.