Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro confirmed Friday the deaths of two air force personnel and offered condolences to their families.
Captain Ronald Ramirez and Captain Jackson Garcia died when their Sukhoi-30 fighter crashed near the Colombian border.
Describing the pair as “heroes of the youth military of the nation,” Maduro issued condolences while praising the work of the air force.
“Honor and glory to these worthy, valiant warriors … the country continues in the civil-military struggle,” he tweeted.
In a separate statement, Minister for Defense Vladimir Padrino lamented the loss of the two personnel.
“Our military institution greatly regrets the abrupt loss of two of its members – officers of virtue with an immense sense of patriotism, fulfilling the sacred honor to protect and uphold their oath to Venezuela,” he said.
Padrino continued, “they gave their lives in defense of the most noble interests of the nation and its citizens.”
The Venezuelan air force jet crashed Thursday night while perusing an unidentified aircraft in Venezuelan airspace.
“At approximately 21:07 hours of Sept. 17, 2015, an airplane Sukhoi-30 of the air force has crashed with pilots Cap. Ronald Ramirez and Cap. Jackson Garcia on board,” Padrino said in an earlier statement.
RELATED: Venezuela-Colombia Border
The military official said that the country's defense systems responded after an unauthorized aircraft was detected entering “through the northwestern region of the country toward the border line with Colombia.”
Padrino explained that the region where the plane illegally entered Venezuelan airspace is a known route for drug traffickers.
“They intend to use our territory as a platform to distribute drugs produce in the neighboring country (Colombia) toward Central America and the Caribbean,” Padrino said.
He added that an investigation has been immediately launched to determine the causes of the Venezuelan air force plane crash.