PARIS (AP) — A Belgian F-16 fighter jet crashed in western France Thursday, damaging a house, setting a field ablaze and leaving one of the two pilots dangling by his parachute from a high-voltage electricity line for two hours, French authorities said.
But neither of the pilots, both who were able to eject before impact, nor anybody on the ground was hurt. Belgian officials said the 36-year-old plane, which was not carrying weapons, suffered unspecified engine trouble.
Emergency workers extracted the stuck pilot safely after cutting off power in the area, and he was taken to a nearby hospital for medical checks, a spokesman for the regional administration told The Associated Press. The other pilot landed without incident.
Surrounding homes were evacuated as the airman was being taken down and firefighters battled the blaze from the crash.
The pilots flagged an “engine technical incident” while flying from Florennes air base in Belgium to the military airport in the French city of Lorient, the Belgian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
One of the plane’s wings sliced through the roof and facade of a house in the town of Pluvigner, in Britanny, before the F-16 plunged into a neighboring farm field, said Ludovic Kauffer, who lives in the house.
Kauffer was at work at the time of the morning accident, but his parents were home and described to him the “booms” of the crash.
“My mother is in shock, my father is too,” he told The AP. “The most important thing is that everyone is OK.”
The plane, which entered service in 1983, was a navigation training mission and en route to a naval air base in France when it came down between the towns of Pluvigner and Landaul, Belgian and French authorities said.
“We detected the emergency signals … at 10:33 a.m. (0833GMT),” said Belgian Air Force Maj. Gen. Frederik Vansina.
Vansina told reporters in Brussels that one of the pilots said “he noticed a problem in the engine of the plane, so we have now to investigate to know what are the exact causes.”
“Both pilots are safe and sound,” he said. The pilot stuck on the power line “told me he was feeling very well.”
The plane itself was not carrying weapons, the local French administration said.
Belgian air safety investigators will head to France to join the probe.
Samuel Petrequin in Brussels and David Vincent in Pluvigner, France contributed.
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