The chief mechanic in an air force unit from which an F-16 and its pilot went missing last week died on Sunday evening in what might have been a suicide, the Ministry of National Defense said yesterday.
The ministry in a statement confirmed media reports that the mechanic, surnamed Huang (黃), “hurt himself” at a military barracks.
Huang was taken to Hualien Armed Forces General Hospital after he was found unresponsive in the barracks, but doctors could not revive him, the ministry said.
Huang served in the 26th Tactical Fighter Group of the 5th Tactical Fighter Wing, the same unit as the missing F-16 and its pilot, media reported.
The ministry said that Huang was in charge of ground equipment and had no direct connection to the missing jet.
The F-16, serial number 6672, disappeared from radar at 6:07pm on Tuesday last week over waters east of Taiwan, two minutes after taking off from Hualien Air Base.
The aircraft and its pilot remain missing as of yesterday morning, with search operations ongoing.
A news report said that Huang had asked his roommate to buy dinner for him, and when the roommate returned, they found the door to the barracks locked from the inside.
The ministry said that it had sent officers to comfort Huang’s family and would cooperate with investigators to determine the cause of the incident.
It would also step up counseling in military units to prevent similar incidents, it said.
In July, Navy Lieutenant Commander Yang (楊) was found hanging by the neck in his room at Kaohsiung’s Zuoying Naval Base. He was one of the supervisors of a navy anti-landing drill in which three marines were killed.
At the time, the military declined to speculate on whether Yang’s suicide was related to the fatal boat accident.
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