An officer with the Colombian air force has died after his aircraft collided with another during a training exercise.
Lieutenant Colonel Mario Andres Espinosa lost his life during the incident while the other officer operating the second aircraft survived and has been hospitalized.
Horrifying footage of the crash, which happened on Saturday, is currently circulating on social media – and shows how 18-year veteran Espinosa’s craft burst into flames upon impact before plummeting to the ground below.
The unnamed pilot of the other craft, however, managed to make an emergency landing – with officials revealing Sunday he is safe, under medical observation, and that the state of health is ‘stable.’ The full extent of his injuries remain unknown.
The incident transpired during training for the upcoming annual independence parade in nearby Bogotá, officials said – at the Captain Luis Francisco Gómez Niño Air Base in Villavicencio, just outside the capital.
Footage of the crash, which happened Saturday, is currently circulating on social media – and shows how an 18-year vet’s craft bursts into flames upon impact, before plummeting to the ground below
Colombia Fuerza Aérea Lieutaenant Colonel Mario Andres Espinosa lost his life during the incident, the country’s military has confirmed – while the other officer operating the second aircraft survived and has since been hospitalized
Soldiers are now engaged in mourning after the sudden loss of a stalwart comrade, who, according to his social media, flew for the force for at least 13 years, and, according to his higher-ups, left behind a family.
The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana said in a statement at 9:37pm ET. ‘We express our condolences and solidarity to the family of the deceased pilot, Lt. Colonel Mario Andrés Espinosa González and to each of the men and women of the Institution.’
Posted to social media, the update was accompanied with an image of Espinosa in uniform, and came more than four hours after footage of the crash began surfacing online.
It also offered a brief eulogy in the form of an inspirational quote.
Translated from Spanish, it read: ‘Pilots don’t die, they just fly higher.’
In another statement, penned hours earlier, military officials outlined some of the still sparse details of the crash – which is currently being investigated.
‘The @FuerzaAereaCol regrets to inform that two T-27 Tucano aircraft, on a training mission, crashed at the 2nd Air Combat Command,’ the Saturday statement read.
In it, the aviation force – one of three branches comprising the country’s military – confirmed the crash occurred at roughly 5:28pm local time (6:28pm ET), and involved only the ‘two T-27 Tucano aircraft’ piloted by the two men.
The pair, officials added, had been flying in formation with three other identical fighter planes while ‘carrying out a training mission,’ before crashing over the Air Combat Command No. 2 in Apiay, Meta.
The crash was caught on camera by at least two Colombians who had been watching the practice air procession from below, in anticipation of a highly attended annual aeronautical fair slated for July 20 – the country’s day of independence
Officials said Sunday that ‘there are no more crews and/or people involved in the unfortunate incident’, while electing to not release the name of the second pilot involved
Espinosa’s craft then combusts, and begins to descend rapidly
Officials added Sunday that ‘there are no more crews and/or people involved in the unfortunate incident’, while electing to not release the name of the second pilot involved.
The crash was caught on camera by at least two Colombians who had been watching the practice air procession from below, in anticipation of July 20’s highly attended aeronautical fair.
In one widely viewed clip, the two low-flying planes are seen getting dangerously close – as the rest of the five-plan fleet looks on – before eventually colliding.
In another, onlookers from a nearby town are seen looking on in horror as the planned procession quite literally falls apart before them.
Espinosa’s craft is then seen combusting almost immediately after coming into contact with the other airborne aircraft, before beginning to descend rapidly.
The other craft, meanwhile, appears to maintain its altitude, before panning out of view and eventually making the aforementioned emergency landing.
Officials added in their initial statement, ‘An inspection commission was sent to the scene of the events in order to advance the investigation that allows determining the causes of the accident.’
That said, what predated and ultimately spurred the collision currently remains unknown as of Sunday, just over 24 hours after the horror crash.
The Fuerza Aérea Colombiana said in a statement at 9:37pm ET Saturday. ‘We express our condolences and solidarity to the family of the deceased pilot, Lt. Colonel Mario Andrés Espinosa González and to each of the men and women of the Institution’
Officials confirmed the planes being used in the ill-fated procession were T-27 Tucanos, a low-wing, tandem-seat fighter developed in Brazil in the late 70s and early 80s
Officials confirmed the planes being used in the ill-fated procession were T-27 Tucanos, a low-wing, tandem-seat fighter developed in Brazil in the late 70s and early 80s.
The crafts – popular in South America – were specifically designated for training.
Authorities said Sunday they are still actively investigating the incident to determine the cause of the collision, so that they can then take appropriate measures to prevent similar, future crashes.
That said, the accident comes amid an abnormal rush of air-related mishaps in Colombian air space, according to a recent report.
In April, the Technical Directorate of Accident Investigation of the Civil Aeronautics revealed the air accident rate in Colombia over the past year – showing that a total of 17 air accidents were reported in the country.
Soldiers are now engaged in mourning after the sudden loss of Lt. Col. Espinosa, who flew for the force for 13 years, and, according to his higher-ups, left behind a family
The report indicates that the majority of these incidents occurred in both private and agricultural aviation, particularly in regions such as the eastern plains and the Colombian jungle, often involving older planes.
In a statement to CNN last month – following a crash that saw four children go missing in the Columbian Jungle – the country’s Civil Aviation authority defended their use of aging planes such as the T-27 trainer
‘Colombian law does not establish a maximum age for aircrafts operating in the country as long as they comply with all maintenance protocols.
‘Moreover, this type of older airplanes are often the most apt to operate in the limited infrastructure of the airfields in the Colombian Amazon.
‘The institution is aware of these situations and promotes a safety program to mitigate risks related to flying in older aircrafts.’
The four children — Lesly, 13; Soleiny, 9; Tien Noriel, 4; and Cristin, 1 — were found earlier this month after spending 40 days lost in the Columbian Jungle, following a rescue operation that combed through more than 1,600 miles of dense forest.