(ATTN: ADDS details in paras 3, 9)
SACHEON, South Korea, April 1 (Yonhap) -- Two Air Force KT-1 trainer jets collided in midair and crashed in southern South Korea on Friday, killing all four pilots aboard the planes, the Air Force and local disaster response officials said.
The jets went down in a rice paddy in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, after colliding with each other in midair at around 1:37 p.m. during training, just minutes after their takeoffs from a nearby base, they said.
The Air Force said each jet carried a trainee pilot, ranked first lieutenant, and a civilian flight instructor. All four ejected from the planes but were later found dead, the Air Force added.
Over 62 firefighters and emergency responders were dispatched to the crash site. A fire broke out on the rooftop of a church after debris from the jet fell but was soon put out.
Yoon Dae-gyu, a 75-year-old farmer who lived near the crash site, said he heard a thunderous noise and later saw a piece of metal falling from the sky.
"It's scary imagining that I could have been hit by that," he said.
The Air Force formed a task force, led by its deputy chief of staff, to handle the aftermath of the accident with a plan to look into what caused it.
South Korea has operated the homegrown single-engine, two-seat basic training aircraft since 2000.
According to the Air Force, this is the first midair collision of two KT-1 jets, and the first such accident involving any pair of Air Force planes since two F-5E fighter jets collided in 2008.
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