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November 29, 2009

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3 crew die in cargo plane crash

A Zimbabwe-registered cargo plane crashed on takeoff at Shanghai Pudong International Airport yesterday at 8:12am, killing three foreign crew and injuring four.

The injured were in a stable condition last night in the People's Hospital in Pudong New Area where one, in his 60s, was being treated for serious rib fractures, said the hospital.

Two of the airport's three runways were closed at 8:20am after the accident. Over 4,000 passengers were affected as more than 60 foreign and domestic flights were delayed until 11am, said airport authorities.

Flights resumed gradually and by 2pm the airport returned to normal operations.

Rescue efforts ended about 4pm when fire engines left the scene of the accident which remained cordoned off by police last night.

The three killed were Americans and a fourth US citizen was injured, US Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan said.

Shanghai television showed what it called a 61-year-old American co-pilot in a hospital bed, conscious and saying "Thank you" to staff and officials.

The TV report said the other crew were from Indonesia, Belgium and Zimbabwe.

The aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 of Avient Aviation, had seven people on board and was "operating a charter freight flight," Avient said in a statement on its Website.

The plane, heading to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, overshot the runway and exploded on impact, state aviation authorities said.

No casualty was reported among the ground personnel though some lighting fixtures were destroyed, reported Xinhua News Agency, citing Jia Ruijun, general manager of Shanghai Pudong Airport Limited Company.

Thick smoke rose above the airport after the crash, witnesses said.

"First there was a thunder-like sound," said Gu Chao, a worker in the airport's cargo terminal. "But then I saw the black mushroom-shaped smoke."

Gu said he was standing about 300 meters away from the crash site in an open space near the airport cargo terminal.

The plane skidded and headed downward soon after it took off, said a witness.

Police cordoned off several main roads in the terminal area leading to the site and reporters were not allowed access. The fire was put out at 9am, authorities said.

Over 300 personnel took part in the rescue operation which also co-opted more than 40 emergency vehicles.

Airport authorities declined to comment on the crash but said a China Civil Aviation Administration accident investigation team had arrived.

With the fire extinguished by noon, investigators started combing through the cordoned off wreckage of the aircraft which broke into pieces.

Avient Aviation is registered in Harare, Zimbabwe and the MD-11 is a medium- to long-range airliner that made its first flight in 1990 but is no longer manufactured.


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