Chinese netizens paid their respects to two People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy pilots who died in a training accident, as new details showed the two chose not to eject from their jet to steer their plane away from civilians on the ground.
The remains of Ren Yongtao, 37, one of the pilots, have been returned to his hometown in Xi’an, Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, local newspaper Xi’an Evening News reported on Monday.
When something went wrong with his aircraft, Ren made the ultimate sacrifice by giving up the chance to eject and parachute to safety, opting instead to attempt a forced landing away from populated areas, the report said.
No civilian casualties were caused by the crash in Ledong county, South China’s Hainan Province, the PLA Daily reported in March 12.
Video taken by local residents shows the wreckage not far from buildings. A primary school was a mere 20 meters away, reports said.
The remains of Nian Jinxin, 27, the co-pilot, were also returned to his hometown in Laiyang, East China’s Shandong Province on Monday, reads a Tuesday statement on the website of Laiyang government.
No information was made available about the type of aircraft or the cause of the crash as of press time.
Chinese netizens paid their respect to the pilots and grieved the loss of the two heroes. Hashtag “Naval pilots sacrificed themselves in forced landing” was posted 9,000 times and read 91 million times on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, as of press time.
“Choosing to protect the lives of ordinary people over their own, Chinese soldiers and officers are the people’s true guardians,” “I really wish they could have ejected at the last second … Rest in Peace,” read typical comments.
Military casualties caused by accidents are unfortunately inevitable, especially during intensive training exercises, experts said.
In April 2016, Zhang Chao, a pilot who was training to fly aircraft from China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, was killed due to an electronic control system failure during an attempt to land his aircraft carrier-based J-15 fighter jet.
Yu Xu, a J-10 fighter jet pilot, was killed in a failed parachute jump in November 2016.
The same dangers exist for military personnel around the world.
Between 2015 and 2017, 44 US military personnel died in combat, while 185 were killed in non-combat accidents, the Washington Post reported in 2017.