The two jets — a Sukhoi 30MKI and a Mirage-2000 aircraft — collided midair during a routine training mission in the morning.
While the two pilots of the Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft managed to eject safely, the pilot of the Mirage-2000 sustained fatal injuries.
Recounting the horrific crash, eyewitnesses in MP’s Morena said they heard a deafening sound and saw balls of fire descending to the ground after the collision, PTI reported.
This was followed by the two pilots in uniform parachuting into the thicket nearby.
The debris of the two aircraft fell in Pahargarh area in MP, 75 kilometres from the district headquarters, while some parts also fell in Bharatpur, just across the border in neighbouring Rajasthan.
‘It was like a powerful blast’
Eyewitnesses said people who assembled at the site extricated the two pilots from the thicket and laid them down on the ground till an IAF chopper arrived and flew them for treatment to Gwalior, from where the two aircraft had taken off on the routine training mission.
Debris from the two aircraft were strewn over an area of 500-800 metres, some four kilometres away from Pahargarh, and were on fire, they said.
The people in the vicinity tried to extinguish the flames engulfing the two aircraft by throwing mud, these eyewitnesses said, adding the area was soon swarming with more than 1,500 residents of 15 villages nearby.
“I was standing with some people here when we heard a massive noise from above, like a powerful bomb blast. We looked up to see balls of fire descending, some of which landed in a forested path here and some in Bharatpur on the other side,” Pahargarh sarpanch Shailendra Shakya told media outlets at the site.
“We saw two parachutes coming down and we waited for 15-20 minutes for the duo to land. However, they fell into the thicket and sustained injuries. We took them out from the bushes and laid them on the ground. While we were talking to the two pilots in uniform, an IAF helicopter arrived and flew them to Gwalior,” Shakya informed.
He claimed a dismembered body with hands cut was found near the debris, adding that local and IAF officials arrived at the site and started a search operation.
Pahargarh resident Veeru said he was close to the spot where the accident took place at around 10:30am.
“I saw an aircraft with its front portion in flames. I saw smoke billowing from a spot some five kilometres away. We tried to extinguish the flames with mud in vain as we did not have water at the time,” he said.
IAF to probe crash
Meanwhile, defence sources said that an IAF court of inquiry will establish whether the accident happened due to a midair collision or not.
The sources also said that defence minister Rajnath Singh was briefed by the Chief of Air Staff on the incident.
The defence minister enquired about the well-being of the pilots and is monitoring the developments closely, they added.
In a statement, the IAF said that it has established a “Court of Inquiry which will establish whether there was a mid-air collision or not” between the two fighter jets.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch IAF’s Sukhoi, Mirage aircraft crash in Morena, 1 pilot killed