TEHRAN, IRAN (AP) – A fighter jet crashed into a stadium in a city in northwest Iran, the country’s state-run news agency reported yesterday. The crash killed two pilots and a civilian.
IRNA said that the F-5 fighter crashed into a stadium in a residential area of Tabriz, a city of 1.6 million residents. Authorities are investigating the incident, the report said.
Commander of the air base in Tabriz General Reza Yousefi, said the crashed jet had been used for training and suffered a technical problem on its final flight. “Pilots could not reach the runway,” he said, according to the report.
In an effort to avoid crashing into the residential area, the pilots guided the jet to the stadium, he said.
The report quoted Yousefi as saying, “Pilots sacrificed themselves, they could (have) used the ejection system, but they refused to do it.” Instead, they headed for the stadium “to keep people safe”, Yousefi said in the report.
Iran’s air force has an assortment of United States (US)-made military aircraft purchased before the 1979 Revolution. It also has Russian-made MiG and Sukhoi planes. Decades of Western sanctions have made it hard to maintain the ageing fleet.