Spain: Death count rises to 11 in military jet crash at base

AP News
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Posted: Jan 27, 2015 1:49 PM
Spain: Death count rises to 11 in military jet crash at base

ALBACETE, Spain (AP) — The death toll from the crash of a Greek F-16 fighter jet during an elite NATO pilot training program rose to 11 Tuesday after a French airman who suffered serious burns died, Spain's Defense Ministry said.

The death came as Spanish investigators probed what caused the jet to lose power during takeoff Monday and crash into five parked planes at the Los Llanos air base in southeastern Spain, triggering a series of explosions and a raging fire.

The crash "represents one of the greatest losses of life during a NATO training exercise in recent memory," said Lt. Col. Jay Janzen, a NATO military spokesman.

Two pilots aboard the Greek F-16 were killed along with eight French air force members on the ground and the French airman who died Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised his French and Greek counterparts "all the help my government can give in clarifying the facts" of what went wrong.

Twenty French and Italian citizens were injured and four remained hospitalized in Madrid undergoing treatment for severe burns, the ministry said.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian went to the crash site Tuesday afternoon with Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes and they also visited some of the injured at a hospital.

The Greek F-16 pilots and other military personnel from seven NATO countries were taking part in an annual one-month training exercise called the Tactical Leadership Program.

Competition is fierce among experienced pilots for the program aimed at advancing their tactical ability so they can command large numbers of planes in the air.

The NATO countries who sent personnel to this year's program were Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United States.

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Clendenning reported from Madrid. Associated Press writers John-Thor Dahlburg in Paris and Iain Sullivan in Albacete contributed to this report.