MiG 21 crashes in Rajkot village

A MIG 21 aircraft crashed in the paddy fields of Johlan village on Tuesday morning during a routine sortie.

Air Force sources have said the pilot, Wing Commander Sandeep, managed to eject before the crash. The crash took place around 11.25 am, barely a distance from a densely populated area in this small village near Rajkot. A court of inquiry has been ordered into the crash.

An IAF spokesperson said: "The pilot had flown from the Pathankot airbase for a routine armament training sortie at the range in Halwara when the mishap occurred." The exercise took place at the Sidhwan Khas or the S K Firing range located some 35 kilometres south of Ludhiana.

Station House Officer of Rajkot Waryam Sandhu said he was alerted of the impending crash by the driver of an ambulance stationed at the Tajpur crossing, a kilometre or two before Rajkot town. Sandhu said: "The driver told me he had spotted a plane flying very low and that it was on fire. The driver feared the aircraft would crash in the town. We immediately informed our seniors and rushed out. Luckily, the pilot ejected right over the town. He might have judged that the plane would not come down on a residential area but fly some distance towards the fields." He added the driver's calculation might have saved many lives.

Senior IAF officials and the Senior Superintendent of Police, Jagraon, H S Chahal visited the spot of the crash later in the day. The pilot was whisked away by the IAF to the nearby Halwara base.

Farmer Ram Singh, a witness to the crash, said: "I was in my field when I heard my neighbour scream at me pointing towards the sky. Before I could react, the plane shot past above our heads. It was on fire and barely 50 feet above. My son and I ran for cover." Singh said the plane crashed into a gas pipeline that is under construction. Farm labour Parkash Kumar said: "We saw a ball of fire coming towards us. For the next half hour, the entire field was covered with smoke. After the smoke settled, we checked the aircraft for the pilot but there was no one inside."

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