3 civilians killed as IAF MiG-21 crashes in Rajasthan | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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3 civilians killed as IAF MiG-21 crashes in Rajasthan

By, Jaipur
May 09, 2023 04:57 AM IST

Three women were killed after a MiG-21 Bison fighter jet crashed into a house near Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh on Monday morning, officials said.

Three women were killed after a MiG-21 Bison fighter jet crashed into a house near Rajasthan’s Hanumangarh on Monday morning, officials said, with the accident again turning a spotlight on the troubling safety record of India’s longest-serving fighter plane.

Local residents gather at the site of the IAF's MiG-21 fighter aircraft crash in Rajasthan on Monday. (ANI)
Local residents gather at the site of the IAF's MiG-21 fighter aircraft crash in Rajasthan on Monday. (ANI)

Also read: Trainee female pilot, instructor killed in plane crash in MP’s Balaghat

While the pilot managed to eject with minor injuries, three other civilians — all women — also sustained injuries in the crash. A Court of Inquiry has been set up to ascertain the cause of the accident, the Indian Air Force said in a statement.

The MiG-21 was on an operational training sortie, the IAF statement said.

The pilot, whose identity is yet to be revealed, faced an onboard emergency shortly after taking off from the Suratgarh air force station and attempted to recover the aircraft, the statement said.

“Having failed to do so, he initiated an ejection, sustaining minor injuries in the process,” the statement said, adding that the jet crashed at around 9.45am.

The IAF said the “wreckage of the aircraft fell on a house in Bahlol Nagar in Hanumangarh district, unfortunately leading to the loss of three lives”. “The pilot was recovered from about 25 kilometres North East of Suratgarh base,” it said.

Local police said the jet crashed into the house of a person identified as Ratti Ram on the outskirts of the village, and the wood stored in his house caught fire.

“Three women have died in the incident and three others are injured,” inspector general of police (Bikaner range) Om Prakash said.

The deceased were identified as Ram’s wife Basho Kaur, 45, Leela Devi, 55, and Banto Kaur, 60. “The three women died of burn injuries,” Hanumangarh superintendent of police Sudheer Chaudhary said.

The house was completely damaged and some nearby structures were also affected.

Saroj, 18, Vimla, 19, and Veerpal Kaur, 32, were injured and rushed to a district government hospital for treatment, the officials said, adding their condition is stable.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion and saw a parachute descending. Within seconds, the plane crashed into the house and the wood stored there caught fire.

“Local people immediately started efforts to douse the flames with water and sand. Fire brigade and police reached the spot and the women were taken to a hospital,” a villager said.

The family members of the victims refused to accept the bodies and demanded compensation of 50 lakh and government job.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot expressed grief over the incident and said that compensation under Chiranjeevi Insurance will be given to the kin of the victims.

“Saddened by the crash of Indian Air Force’s MiG-21 aircraft in Suratgarh killing three people. I pray to God to give peace to the souls of the departed and strength to the family members to bear the loss. The relatives of the deceased will be given assistance from Chiranjeevi insurance,” Gehlot tweeted.

Hanumangarh collector Rukmani Riar said that a compensation of 5 lakh each under the scheme will be paid to the families of the deceased women. She said that they are talking to the family members of the victims to convince them to conduct their last rites.

The IAF, in its statement, said it regrets the loss of lives.

“The IAF regrets the loss of lives and offers its deepest condolences to the bereaved families. A Court of Inquiry has been constituted to ascertain the cause of the accident,” it said.

The IAF has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

The IAF is set to retire its three remaining squadrons of the MiG-21 Bisons by 2025, officials familiar with the matter said. Each squadron has 16 to 18 fighter planes. The MiG-21 Bis (an upgraded MiG-21 variant flown for the first time in 1976) was further upgraded to MiG-21 Bison in India in 2000.

“I am happy that the government has decided to phase out the MiG-21s by 2025 and I hope this deadline doesn’t change,” said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

Also read: IAF’s first C295 completes maiden flight in Spain, induction begins in Sept

The air force got its first single-engine MiG-21 in 1963 and it gradually inducted 874 jets (different variants of the Soviet-origin supersonic fighters) to bolster its combat potential. More than 400 MiG-21s have been involved in accidents that have claimed the lives of 200 pilots during the last six decades, earning the aircraft the ominous epithets of “Flying Coffin” and “Widow Maker”.

Of the 874 MiG-21s inducted by the IAF, more than 60% were licence-produced in India. More MiG-21s have crashed than any other fighter because they formed the bulk of the fighter aircraft in the IAF’s inventory for a long time, the officials said. IAF had to keep its MiG-21 fleet flying longer than it would have liked because of the delay in the induction of new fighters.

The IAF retired a MiG-21 Bisons at the Srinagar-based No 51 squadron, which is also known as “Sword Arms”, last September.

(With inputs from HTC, New Delhi)

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