HAT YAI – A Thai military air show for children was marred by tragedy on Saturday (Jan 14) when a fighter jet plunged from the sky and burst into flames, killing the pilot.
Families were gathered at the airport in the southern city of Hat Yai to watch the show put on for Thailand’s annual Children’s Day.
The crash reportedly occurred when the pilot was performing a surprise attack manoeuvre.
Footage of the accident captured shrieks from a startled crowd as the jet took a nosedive and crashed near the airport’s runway, releasing fiery plumes of smoke.
“One pilot was killed in the accident this morning,” defence ministry spokesman Major General Kongcheep Tantravanich told AFP.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, he added.
No one else was harmed in the incident, according to an airport official, as the audience was gathered a considerable distance away from the crash site.
A junta spokesman said the 35-year-old pilot was flying a Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jet.
“The Prime Minister has expressed his condolences to (the) pilot, his family and the Royal Thai Air Force,” said Major General Werachon Sukondhapatipak.
Thailand’s national Children’s Day is celebrated yearly on the second Saturday of January.
Director-General of the Department of Mental Health Dr. Boonruang Trairuangworawat said on Saturday that a team of psychiatrists from Songkhla Rajanagarindra Phsychiatric Hospital has been dispatched to work with the Wing 56 Airforce Hospital in helping those affected by a jet fighter crash during the airshow at Hat Yai airport.
Dr. Boonruang said that the accident, which killed the pilot, must have had significant psychological impact on his family and friends, so officials will need to make a psychological assessment and offer appropriate assistance to prevent any long-term mental health problem.
He stated that members of the public and the press can help in the process by not sharing any photographs or video clips related to the crash, especially via online social media so that people involved won’t suffer further psychological trauma.
Source: AFP, NNT