- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

OSAN AIR FORCE BASE, South Korea, Jan. 27 (UPI) — An American U-2 spy plane crashed about 30 miles south of Seoul Sunday, injuring four people on the ground and the pilot, who ejected before impact, U.S. military officials said.

Air base personnel throughout Sunday night continued cleaning up the scattered debris from the crash, U.S. military officials said early Monday.

The aircraft was from the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron at Osan Air Force Base and it crashed near Hwa Song, located west of the base, at 3 p.m. local time.

U.S. officials reported four residents living near the crash site were taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries. A nearby auto repair shop and several houses caught fire because of the crash.

The 33rd Rescue Squadron retrieved the pilot, who had tried to guide the plane away from the heavily populated area.

"We are deeply sorry for this accident," Brig. Gen. Mark Beesley, vice commander, 7th Air Force, said in a statement.

Beesley visited the injured at the hospital.

"We will make every effort to provide assistance for the individuals who were injured in this accident and take the necessary steps to ensure the claims process works quickly and effectively," he said.

The U-2 provides day and night high altitude surveillance and reconnaissance for U.S. and allied ground and air forces. The Air Force said it would begin an investigation into the incident.

The South Korean news agency said the plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., was conducting surveillance at an altitude of about 15 miles prior to the crash.

It was the third crash of a U-2 plane in South Korea, the first taking place in 1984 and the second in 1992.

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