SEOUL: An American U-2 spy plane crashed after its pilot ejected near here yesterday, injuring three people on the ground, the Defence Ministry said.
The aircraft was believed to have taken off from a US airbase in Osan, not far from the crash site in Hwasong city, Korean Broadcasting System said.
Police said three people sustained minor injuries after the wreckage of the plane landed on a vacant plot near an auto repair shop, engulfing the building in flames.
The pilot ejected before the crash but no details were available as to whether he had landed safely, a ministry official said.
US Air Force spokeswoman Lt Toni Tones said the pilot “successfully ejected” from the plane before it crashed and was the only person onboard.
“The pilot is being taken to hospital to be treated for injuries,” Tones said.
Tones gave no reason for the crash, noting that a military investigation had just begun.
“Details and the cause of the accident are not immediately available,” the Defence Ministry spokesman said.
“The plane hit and completely destroyed a car centre,” local resident Kim Yong-pyo told Korean Broadcasting System.
“A nearby house caught fire, too, when the wreckage hit the building,” the spokesman added
The fire was believed to have broken out in an engine of the plane, KBS said without giving the source for the information.
Tones said the plane was from the fifth reconnaissance squadron of the US 7th Air Force base.
The crash comes as the United States is locked in a stand-off with communist North Korea over its nuclear ambitions. Pyongyang says it will only discuss the crisis with Washington and Washington says it will talk but not negotiate.
It also comes during heightened anti-US sentiment in South Korea after two teenage schoolgirls were crushed to death last June by a US armoured vehicle during exercises.
The deaths and the acquittal of the two US soldiers driving the vehicle sparked huge demonstrations against the US military presence.
About 37,000 US troops are based in South Korea to provide defence against the North.
Korea has been divided by the heavily fortified demilitarised zone since the 1950-53 Korean War. – Reuters/AFP