The Associated Press
Published Monday, February 21, 2022 6:30 am EST
Last updated on Monday, February 21, 2022 6:30 PM EST
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A warplane crashed into a soccer field in a city in northwestern Iran, the country’s state-run news agency reported on Monday. The crash killed two pilots and a civilian.
IRNA said the F-5 fighter crashed into the field in a residential area of Tabriz, a city of 1.6 million people. Authorities are investigating the incident, the report said.
General Reza Yousefi, commander of the Tabriz Air Force Base, said the crashed jet was used for training purposes and suffered a technical problem during its final flight.
“Pilots could not reach the runway,” he said, according to the report.
To avoid crashing into the residential area, the pilots steered the jet to the soccer field, he said. The report quotes Yousefi as saying, “The pilots sacrificed themselves, they could (should) have used the ejection system, but they refused.”
The pilots went to the pitch “to keep people safe,” Yousefi said in the report.
A state TV reporter at the crash site said the plane went off field and crashed into a school wall because the field wasn’t long enough.
Nobody was inside. Schools have been closed amid the sixth wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Iran.
The Iranian Air Force has a selection of US-made military aircraft purchased prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It also has Russian-made MiG and Sukhoi aircraft. Decades of western sanctions have made the aging fleet difficult to maintain.