French air force says 2 on missing fighter jet are dead

January 10, 2019
FILE - In this Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017 file photo, a French Mirage 2000D jet fighter takes off from Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel, during the 2017 Blue Flag exercise. A French fighter jet carrying two pilots has disappeared from radar screens near the Swiss border. A French air force spokeswoman said the Mirage 2000D was last detected Wednesday in a snow-covered mountainous area between the Doubs and Jura regions (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

PARIS (AP) — After a two-day search for a missing fighter jet, French military authorities said Thursday the pilot and a navigator were killed when the plane disappeared during a training flight.

The Mirage 2000D vanished from radar Wednesday while flying in a snowstorm near the Swiss border. More than 100 rescuers, police officers and others searched icy mountains for the aircraft and the two-person crew.

The French air force said Thursday night that the pair had died and identified them as Capt. Baptiste Chirie, a combat pilot with 24 war missions, and Lt. Audrey Michelon, an arms systems navigator who participated in 97 war missions.

The air force did not say what led to the declaration of their deaths. Regional television France 3 reported earlier that aircraft debris was discovered scattered around hard-to-reach, forested slopes at more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) altitude.

Defense Minister Florence Parly and the chief of the French air force, Gen. Philippe Lavigne, planned to head Friday to the air base in Nancy, in eastern France, to meet with aviators and families, a statement said.

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