Jaipur/New Delhi: Three civilians were killed and as many injured on the ground after a MiG-21 fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) crashed during a routine training sortie in Hanumangarh district of Rajasthan on Monday police said.
The pilot sustained minor injuries as he ejected from the plane that crashed at around 9.45 am, the IAF said, adding a Court of Inquiry has been set up to ascertain the cause of the accident.
The plane was on a routine training sortie from the Air Force Station at Suratgarh in Ganganagar district, which is close to Hanumangarh.
"Soon thereafter, the pilot experienced an onboard emergency, following which he attempted to recover the aircraft as per existing procedures," the IAF said in a statement.
"Having failed to do so, he initiated an ejection, sustaining minor injuries in the process. The pilot was recovered from about 25 kilometres North East of Suratgarh base," it said.
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 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 incident has once again put the spotlight on the poor safety record of MiG-21 jets which have been involved in 400 crashes in the last six decades.
Inspector General of Police, Bikaner range, Om Prakash said the pilot made all efforts to avert human casualties and the plane crash-landed on the outskirts of a village.
"Three women have died in the incident and three others are injured," he said.
Superintendent of Police, Hanumangarh, Sudheer Chaudhary said the plane crashed into the house of one Ratti Ram, killing his wife Basho Kaur and two other women identified as Leela Devi and Banto Kaur.
Burn injuries led to the death of the women, he said.
The house was completely damaged and some nearby structures were also affected.
A resident said he heard a loud sound and saw a parachute coming down. Within seconds, the plane crashed into the house of Ratti Ram 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," the resident told reporters in Hanumangarh.
Soon after the incident, locals gathered at the spot in large numbers.
The family members of the victims refused to accept the bodies and demanded compensation of Rs 50 lakh and a 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.
Hanumangarh collector Rukmani Riar said that a compensation of Rs 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.
At present, the IAF has three MiG-21 squadrons with a total of around 50 aircraft, according to officials. The IAF last year finalised a timeline of three years to phase out the remaining Mig-21 fighter squadrons.
In March last year, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhat said in Rajya Sabha that 42 defence personnel were killed in accidents involving aircraft and helicopters of the three services in the last five years.
(With PTI inputs)