A fisherman who witnessed Thursday’s fighter jet crash off the coast of central Vietnam said he did not see anybody eject from the two aircraft.
“My son and I were fishing in our boat when we heard a whirr and saw an aircraft and then another crashing into the sea,” Nguyen Phung told Thanh Nien Sunday.
“We didn’t see anyone parachute from the jets,” the 68-year-old man said, adding the planes fell 100-150 m away from where they were.
The two Russian-made Sukhoi Su-22 took off from Phan Rang Airport at 11.24 a.m. on April 16 for an exercise in the East Sea (the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea), but lost contact at 11.35 a.m.
Major General Do Minh Tuan, deputy commander of the Air Force, told Thanh Nien the crash site is about 10 to 15 kilometers southwest of Phu Quy Island in Binh Thuan Province.
The search for the two pilots continues, with rescuers saying they found one of the tails on the sea bed Friday and pieces of wings and cockpits Sunday.
Authorities said Phung’s information helped rescuers narrow the search area and find these objects.
The media reported earlier that the two pilots, Lieutenant-Colonel Le Van Nghia and Captain Nguyen Anh Tu, parachuted into the sea, quoting Binh Thuan’s search and rescue committee.
But rescuers said later they had mistaken foam for pieces of a parachute.
The crash is the latest in a series of setbacks for Vietnam's military, which also saw two fatal helicopter accidents in the past nine months in which 24 personnel died.