TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- It was confirmed last night that the pilot of an F-16 fighter jet which crashed in the mountains of northern Taiwan during military maneuvers had indeed perished, according to the Ministry of National Defense.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon took off at 1:19 p.m. on Monday, June 4 from Hualien Air Force Base to participate in the first day of live-fire exercises for the annual five-day Han Kuang military exercises. Pieces of the wreckage of the warplane were first spotted by a hiker on Wufen Mountain (五分山) in New Taipei's Rueifang District, and the finding was confirmed at approximately 2:39 in the afternoon, reports CNA.
F-16 fighter jet. (CNA image)
The National Rescue Command Center said that it immediately launched a land and air search effort, including two helicopters, 22 vehicles, 126 personnel, 4 search and rescue dogs, and a drone, as well as 17 fire trucks, 28 firefighters and two drones from the New Taipei City fire department.
After nearly five hours of searching, officials found the tattered and bloodied remains of Major Wu Yen-ting's (吳彥霆) flight suit at the scene of the crash at 7:00 p.m. When fire department rescuers arrived on the scene at 7:57 p.m., they found pieces of the man's flesh scattered around a large area and remnants of his undergarments hanging from a tree, and confirmed that the remains were that of Wu, according to CNA.
Wreckage from aircraft. (CNA image)
Based on an initial investigation, the Air Force said that the crash was caused by a "combination" of factors including environment, weather, and human error, reported China Times. In the wake of the crash, the Air Force has grounded all F-16s immediately.
The Air Force is putting together a team to investigate the cause of the crash in further detail, including inspecting the aircraft's flight control system, engine, ejection seat, avionics, navigation and other systems.
Tattered remains of Wu's flight suit. (CNA image)
Wu was a 2009 graduate of the Air Force Academy, and had logged 736 hours flying the F-16. The crashed fighter jet had logged 2,200 hours of flight time and its most recent periodic inspection had been completed on May 1.
The loss of the F-16 marks the eight crash of the warplane in Taiwan's fleet since 1998, with the most recent incident being a deadly training accident in the U.S. state of Arizona in 2016.