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Five die in UK jet crash

plane crash scene
Firefighters dampdown the wreckage  

BIRMINGHAM, England -- Five people have been killed after a private executive jet crashed during take-off at an English airport.

The twin-engined Canadair Challenger plane -- which an airport spokesman said was heading for Bangor, Maine, U.S. -- burst into flames sending thick plumes of smoke into the air at 1207 GMT on Friday.

Witnesses said one of the plane's wings had hit the runway at Birmingham International airport, central England, just before the crash.

An airport spokesman told The Associated Press that the the plane was carrying two passengers and three crew.

The twin-engine executive was registered with Georgia, U.S.-based agricultural equipment giant AGCO Corp.

The company said its president, John Shumejda, 56, and its senior vice president of sales, Ed Swingle, 60, were killed. The crew on board have not been identified.

AGCO Corp, an agricultural equipment manufacturer based in Duluth, Georgia, said its president and chief executive John Shumejda and senior vice president for sales and marketing Ed Swingle had died in the crash, Reuters reported.

Airport managing director Brian Summers told a news conference that all the passengers and crew on the jet were U.S. citizens.

AP said a spokesman for the American Embassy in London had confirmed that all five people killed were U.S. citizens.

"It was a distressing scene," said Steve Evans, manager of West Midlands Ambulance Service.

"The tail of the plane was some yards away from the main fuselage. Four people were found outside the aircraft on the grass and one person was found inside," he added.

A West Midlands Fire Brigade spokesman said it was too early to determine the cause of the accident.

The plane is thought to be registered in Maine, the UK's Press Association news agency reported.

A spokesman for the National Air Traffic Services said the runway was closed after the crash.

Evans said: "I understand the private aircraft left the departure runway.

"Some witnesses said, and we have had reports, that there was a ball of flames."

Witness Joan Hood told the British Broadcasting Corporation: "My husband and I went out to the front of the house, where we can see over the runway, and there was a thick black plume of smoke rising to about 100 feet."

The UK Department of Transport said that members of the Air Accidents Investigation Branch were on their way to the crash scene.

"There will be full investigation followed by an AAIB report in due course," said a department spokesman.

An airport spokesman said the Challenger aircraft, capable of carrying up to 20 people, was a private or corporate jet heading for Bangor, Maine, where it was scheduled to refuel.

Birmingham airport is expected to be closed for some time and passengers were advised to contact their airlines, the spokesman told Reuters.

British Airways said inbound flights from Edinburgh, Berlin Hanover and Gothenburg were being diverted to Manchester or East Midlands Airports. A flight to Aberdeen was cancelled and other flights were suspended.




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