A small combat plane crashed into an apple orchard in northeastern China soon after it left North Korea yesterday. The pilot, who died upon impact, may have been attempting to defect to Russia, media reports said on Wednesday.
The plane crashed on Tuesday in Lagun Village, Fushun County, Liaoning Province, about 124 miles from North Korea’s Sinuiju air base.
Villagers said that they had seen the plane lumbering low across the sky like a piece of scrap iron.
“The engine was making a very strange noise and it was flying in a very weird way, with its head up and rear down,” AP quoted one villager as saying, reportedly from Ersonggou Village, about three miles from the crash site.
It was a South Korean military official who put forward the idea that the plane had tried flying to Russia after escaping North Korea, but then lost direction. He was quoted by the South Korean Yonhap news agency on the condition of anonymity.
“Radar images show the North Korean aircraft took off from the air base in Sinuiju,” an official in Seoul said, based on images captured by the Air Force's Monitor Control and Reporting Center (MCRC) that monitors activities of North Korean aircraft. The source said the small jet appeared to be a MiG-21.
Two photographs appearing on Chinese state-run media showed the crashed plane with a North Korean flag on its tail. STRATFOR, a global intelligence news service, noted that the photos were likely reliable. The time the photos were said to have been taken corresponded with the supposed time of the crash, the bystanders were Chinese peasants, and no other similar plane crashes have been reported from which the pictures could have been copied.