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Plane crash near Belgrade kills 12

August 19, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)

plane crash

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- A Russian cargo plane crashed while attempting an emergency landing near Belgrade's airport early Monday, killing all 12 people aboard.

The privately owned Illyushin-76 aircraft took off from Belgrade bound for Malta just after midnight. An air traffic control official told The Associated Press that the plane lost radio contact with the airport shortly after takeoff and circled the city for several hours trying to burn off fuel before attempting to land.

"It zoomed over our heads several times before crashing," said airport employee Milan Spasic. "It nearly hit the control tower on one of the passes."

The plane exploded into flames on impact in a cornfield northeast of the airport.

Crash investigators said in a statement that the four-engine jet most likely crashed due to a failure of the plane's electronic system.

The Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations reported from Moscow that the plane, reportedly owned by a company called Spiaero based in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, was carrying airplane tires. But Belgrade radio stations said the aircraft was hauling arms and ammunition, and that explosions occurred at the burning crash site for hours after the plane went down.

Radio stations also reported that the pilot's last communication with air traffic control, 15 minutes after takeoff, reported "total failure" of the jet's systems.

The plane carried 10 crew members and two cargo workers. All were Russians.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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