S. Koreans mourn victims of jet crash
July 26, 2007
SEOUL — South Korean military officials this week were still investigating what caused a KF-16 jet to crash last week in the ocean, killing two South Korean air force pilots, according to the Ministry of National Defense.
The nighttime crash Friday during a training flight off the country’s western coast killed Lt. Col. Lee Kyu-jin and Capt. Park In-chul, according to the ministry. Lee, 38, and Park, 27, each were promoted one rank posthumously.
Investigators believe both men were killed on impact, according to the South Korean air force. So far, South Korean and U.S. search-and-rescue teams have found parts of the jet and the ejection seats near the crash site, the Air Force said in a press release. As of Tuesday afternoon, the pilots’ bodies had not been recovered, a Ministry of National Defense spokesman said.
Monday morning, South Korean military officials held a ceremony for the two men at the 20th Combat Division of the South Korean Air Force. Lt. Gen. Stephen Wood, U.S. 7th Air Force commander, attended along with dozens of members of both countries’ militaries.
U.S. Forces Korea commander Gen. B.B. Bell released a statement of condolence Monday.
“We mourn the loss of these brave pilots who died training to defend the peace and security here in Korea,” Bell wrote. “On behalf of all USFK servicemembers, I express our deepest sympathies and condolence to the families of those whose lives were lost as a result of this incident.”
Sunday, burial ceremonies — with strands of hair representing both men’s bodies — were held at Daejeon National Cemetery for Lee and Seoul National Cemetery for Park.
Park’s grave is next to that of his father, a special exception to a rule that bars family members from being buried next to each other at the national cemeteries, according to the defense ministry.
Park’s father was Korean Air Force Maj. Park Myeong-rhyeol, who was killed in 1984 in an F-4E during a joint Team Spirit exercise, according to the ministry.
The investigation into Friday’s crash will likely take a month, according to the defense ministry.