Belgian fighter jet crashes in western France, leaves pilot stuck on power line

A Belgian F-16 fighter jet crashed Thursday in western France, damaging a house, setting a field ablaze and leaving a pilot suspended for two hours from a high-voltage electricity line after his parachute got caught, according to French authorities.

Belgium’s Defence Ministry said the plane suffered unspecified engine trouble.

Emergency workers extracted the pilot safely after cutting off power in the area, and he was been taken to a nearby hospital for medical checks, a spokesman for the regional administration said.

The two pilots aboard ejected before the crash and the plane itself was not armed, the statement said.

No one on the ground was hurt. Surrounding homes were evacuated as the pilot was being taken down and firefighters battled the blaze from the crash.

The pilots flagged an “engine technical incident” while travelling from Florennes air base in Belgium to the military airport in the French city of Lorient, about 500 kilometres southwest of Paris, the Belgian Defence Ministry said in a statement. It did not elaborate.

One of the plane’s wings sliced the roof and facade of a house in the nearby town of Pluvigner, before plunging into a neighbouring farm field, said Ludovic Kauffer, who lives in the house.

Kauffer was at work at the time of the morning accident, but his parents were home and described to him the “booms” of the crash.

“My mother is in shock, my father is, too,” he said. “The most important thing is that everyone is OK.”

A national police spokeswoman said about 100 police surrounded the crash site and are investigating what happened. Belgian air safety investigators will head to France to join the probe.