Algerian military plane crashes in a field, killing 257

Flight had just taken off from Boufarik military base, headed for another base in southwest Algeria

An Algerian military plane carrying soldiers and their families crashed soon after takeoff Wednesday into a field in northern Algeria, killing 257 people in what appeared to be the North African nation’s worst-ever plane crash.

Algeria’s Defence Ministry said those killed included 247 passengers and 10 crew. The cause of the crash was unclear and an investigation has been opened.

Algerian authorities did not mention whether there were any survivors but one witness reported seeing some people jump out of the aircraft before it crashed at 7:50 a.m. Wednesday.

READ MORE: Mysteries run deep when airplanes disappear

The flight had just taken off from the Boufarik military base, 30 kilometres southwest of the capital Algiers, for a military base in Bechar in southwest Algeria, according to Farouk Achour, the chief spokesman for the civil protection services. It was scheduled to make a layover in Tindouf in southern Algeria, home to many refugees from the neighbouring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.

The Soviet-designed Il-76 military transport plane crashed in a farm field with no people nearby, Achour said.

Algerian TV Dzair said five people were in a critical state but it’s unclear whether they were inside the plane when it crashed.

Footage from the scene showed thick black smoke coming off the field, ambulances and Red Crescent vehicles arriving at the crash site and body bags lined up in the field.

Several witnesses told Algerian TV network Ennahar they saw flames coming out of one of the planes’ engines just before it took off. One farmer said some passengers jumped out of the aircraft before the accident.

“The plane started to rise before falling,” an unidentified man lying on what seemed to be a hospital bed told Ennahar TV. “The plane crashed on its wing first and caught fire.”

The victims’ bodies have been transported to the Algerian army’s central hospital for identification.

The prime minister’s office said lawmakers and officials observed a minute of silence as a tribute to the victims.

The Il-76 model has been in production since 1970s and has an overall good safety record. It is widely used for both commercial freight and military transport. The Algerian military operates several of the planes.

It was the first crash of an Algerian military plane since February 2014, when a U.S.-built C-130 Hercules turboprop slammed into a mountain in Algeria, killing at least 76 people and leaving just one survivor.

The previous deadliest crash on Algerian soil occurred in 2003, when 102 people were killed after a civilian airliner crashed at the end of the runway in Tamanrasset. There was a single survivor in that crash.

Also in 2003, 10 people died when an Algerian Air Force C-130 crashed after an engine caught fire shortly after it took off from the air base near Boufarik, according to the Aviation Safety Network.

Samuel Petrequin in Paris contributed to this report.

Aomar Ouali, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Out to pasture at the Freak’n Farmer

The annual “fun” event at Covert Farms put on by the Covert family and HooDoo Adventures

Couple of cruisers crammed in Penticton

Penticton RCMP officers and voluteers collected food and money for the Salvation Army Food Bank

Great news for Indigenous youth program in BC

The federal government came through with over $1 million in funding for Indigenous youth program

Rodgers visits animals at Ontario wildlife sanctuary

Summerland-based musician a supporter of several animal sanctuaries

Summerland Steam to play in two road games

Junior B team will face Nelson Leafs, Castlegar Rebels on weekend

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Family, friends of B.C murder victim want killer sent back to max security facility

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

B.C. VIEWS: Looking under the hood of ICBC’s war on crashes

Is our accident rate really soaring, or is it inefficiency?

B.C. tent city residents have three weeks to clear out: Supreme Court

Fire risk, criminal activity in neighbourhood cited as reasons for judgment

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Most Read