Thursday, March 31, 2005

US Plane Crashes in Albania, Nine Believed Killed - Reuters

A U.S. military plane with nine people on board crashed in a mountainous area of southern Albania on Thursday, exploding in a ball of flame, police and villagers said.

"It is thought the people on board have died, but this is not confirmed," Public Order Ministry spokesman Florion Serjani told Reuters.
Serjani said the control tower at Albania's Rinas airport "saw the plane move in an irregular way while it was flying over a valley" in southeast Albania.
Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Mackin, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Germany, confirmed the plane had crashed, but added he could not confirm how many people were on board.
"We are trying to establish that with their base units. They came out of Mildenhall base in the United Kingdom," he told Reuters.
The plane had probably been trying to reach the nearby military airfield of Kucove.
Serjani said the C-130 had been taking part in exercises in Albania and crashed in the area of Gramsh.
He said the mountainous terrain had forced police to abandon their vehicles and proceed to the crash site on foot.
Albania's general staff chief Pellumb Qazimi told Reuters he had sent troops to the area and planned to fly helicopters there by dawn.
"The villagers said they were awoken by an explosion and saw giant flames in the Driza mountain," a reporter for Albania's News24 network said.
The area is covered by snow up to two meters (six feet) deep. A U.S. helicopter was reported to be monitoring the crash site.
Two U.S. pilots died when their Apache helicopter crashed in Albania in May 5, 1999 while it was on a night-time training mission in preparation for possible use in the Kosovo conflict.

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