The red dot indicates the crash site of a Vietnamese coast guard plane June 16. Infographics by Zing
Vietnamese military rescue forces have found debris from a Coast Guard plane that crashed into the sea Thursday with nine people while searching for an Air Force pilot missing from another crashed aircraft a few days earlier.
The turboprop-powered plane went off the radar at around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, about 44 nautical mile southwest of Bach Long Vi Island in the Gulf of Tonkin, which separates the country from China.
A source told Thanh Nien that the debris was found in the waters 12-15 nautical miles southwest of Bach Long Vi Island. The crashed plane is believed to be at a depth of some 58 meters.
But the source refused to comment on the issue of the nine officers onboard the plane, which was piloted by Col. Le Kiem Toan, Commander of Brigade KQ918 of the air force.
Vietnam bought three CASA 212 planes from Airbus Military in Spain between 2012 and 2013.
Major General Nguyen Quang Dam, a Coast Guard commander, was quoted by news website VnExpress as saying preliminary investigation found the plane had crashed while descending due to poor weather.
Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh met with the Chinese ambassador Thursday night to ask for that country’s facilitation of the search and rescue operation.
The Coast Guard plane was among five aircraft that were joined by more than 100 boats and 1,500 people looking for Col Tran Quang Khai, 43, who has been missing since ejecting from a Sukhoi SU-30 MK2 fighter jet on Tuesday.
Nguyen Huu Cuong, the other pilot aboard the Russian-made plane, was rescued by fishermen Wednesday.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said the search has been expanded to the northern waters after what is suspected to be Khai’s life vest was found off Thai Binh Province.
A coast guard vessel reported on Thursday afternoon that it has found what could be parts of the fighter aircraft, including one wheel.
After the jet went missing, the Vietnamese air force has suspended the practice flights to be conducted by the same plane model.
The latest incidents follows a series of mishaps that hit the military in the past two years.
Two Soviet-era Su-22 fighter aircraft of the Vietnamese air force crashed into the East Sea during a training mission in April 2015. Both pilots died in the crash.
Two earlier crashes, which involved a Russian Mi-171 and US-built UH-1, killed 24 people.