By Somjit Rungjamrasrassamee,
Although the two pilots managed to eject seconds before the Aero L-39 ZA/ART aircraft nosedived and burst into flames, only Group Captain Jirasak Ngamwongsri survived, though with serious injuries. Co-pilot Squadron Leader Krerkkiat Suwanno was killed after his parachute failed to open in time.
The 310th Military Circle commander, Maj-General Narat Singprapaporn, and Tak police chief Pol Maj-General Parinya
Wisitthakul visited the injured Jirasak at Sam Ngao Hospital before he was transferred for further treatment at a Chiang Mai hospital. Meanwhile, Krerkkiat’s body was transported to Bangkok at 12.30am.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan have ordered authorities to thoroughly probe the crash and take care of the pilots’ families, said Air Force Commander-in-Chief Jom Rungsawang who declined to comment on the cause of the crash. He insisted that although 38 of the L-39 trainer jets, which had been in service for over two decades, had been decommissioned, 12 still in service were useable and well maintained. He said the jets were inspected before each flight.
“I can confirm that the aircraft are in good condition and the pilots are able to use them for training flights. ... No one wants this kind of incident to happen. I feel sorry about this and offer my condolences to the family of the deceased officer, for whom the Thai public should also mourn because of his sacrifice,” Jom said.
The Air Force last month commissioned four South Korean-made T-50 TH trainer jets to replace the L-39s of Air Wing 401, based at the Takhli airbase in Nakhon Sawan province. Eight more T-50 TH jets are set to be delivered in October or November next year.
The L-39 trainer jets currently in service would be moved to Air Wing 41 in Chiang Mai for use until their operational period ends, he said.
Later in the afternoon, Jom presided over a ceremony to receive Krerkkiat’s body at the Don Mueang Military Airport.
Jom also said Krerkkiat would be posthumously promoted to Air Marshal and receive the royal decoration of Knight Commander (Second Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand. Krerkkiat’s family will receive Bt2.9 million in compensation for an officer killed on duty and a special pension of Bt34,000 a month.
The Air Force will host Krerkkiat’s funeral prayers until May 30 at Wat Phrasri Mahathat in Bang Khen before a royally sponsored cremation.