An Iranian F-5 fighter jet crashed into a school compound in the northwestern city of Tabriz on Monday , killing two crew members and a bystander, authorities said.
“Fortunately, the school was closed due to the covid-19 pandemic,” local official Mohammad-Bagher Honarvar told state television.
The plane was on a training mission when it went down around 9:00 a.m. (0530 GMT) in Monajem, a central district of the city, said Honavar, who heads a crisis management unit in East Azerbaijan province.
The head of the local Red Crescent organization said the plane crashed into an outside wall and one of the dead was a neighbor.
A fire broke out at the crash site and firefighters were seen battling the flames as a crowd looked on, in video footage from the official IRNA news agency.
The charred remains of the fighter plane could be seen in the rubble of the school’s blackened facade.
The plane had been parked at the Shahid Fakouri air base in Tabriz, the base’s commander, Gen. Reza Youssefi, told the broadcaster, adding that it was returning from a training mission when it encountered a technical problem that prevented it from landing.
Iran’s air force has about 300 fighter jets , mostly Russian MiG-29 and Sukhoi-25 fighters dating from the Soviet era, as well as Chinese F-7s and French Mirage F1s .
The fleet also includes some US F-4 and F-5 jets dating back to the Western-backed shah’s regime, which was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Experts say that only some of these planes are operational.
In August 2006, Iran announced that it had developed a new fighter aircraft called “Azarakhsh ” (Lightning) which it described as similar to the F-5.
A year later he introduced another homegrown jet calling it “ Saegheh ” (Thunder), saying it was similar to the American F-18.
But some Western military experts have said that the Saegheh is a derivative of the F-5.
Monday’s fighter jet crash was the first crash involving a military aircraft reported by Iran since December 2019.
At the time, a MiG-29 fighter jet crashed near a dormant volcano in the country’s northwest during a test flight, according to official media.
Three days later the military confirmed the death of the pilot.
In January 2019, a military cargo plane skidded off the runway , crashed and caught fire during a failed landing near the capital Tehran.
At the time, the military said 15 people were killed in the crash.
A fighter plane also crashed in Tabriz during military exercises in September 2011 , local media reported.
Iran has been subject to harsh US sanctions since 2018 , when the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal struck three years earlier between Tehran and world powers.
Talks are underway in Vienna to revive the deal and Iran is calling for the sanctions to be lifted.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.