South Africa plane crashes into school playing fields

JOHANNESBURG Thu Sep 24, 2009 6:27am EDT

Rescuers move a crew member of a plane which crashed into a school field shortly after take-off in Durban, September 24, 2009. REUTERS/Rogan Ward

Rescuers move a crew member of a plane which crashed into a school field shortly after take-off in Durban, September 24, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Rogan Ward

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - An Airlink passenger plane crashed into a school's playing fields near Durban International Airport Thursday, seriously injuring three crew members and one person on the ground, the South African airline said.

Airlink spokeswoman Karin Murray confirmed a local media report that one person, who was on the school grounds where the plane attempted to land, was also injured.

The school was closed for holidays.

Airlink said the plane's two pilots were critically injured in the crash, while the flight attendant was seriously hurt. All were in a stable condition in nearby hospitals.

"The aircraft, a Jetstream 41 with 29 seats, departed from Durban International Airport and shortly after take-off declared an emergency, crew reported engine loss and smoke from the rear of the aircraft," Airlink, which partners with South African Airways, said.

"The aircraft ditched approximately 400 meters (0.25 miles) off the airport in the fields of a school on the Bluff and broke into 3 pieces."

The plane was not carrying fee-paying passengers as it had been on a "technical positioning flight" to Pietermaritzburg, about 90 kilometers west of Durban.

(Reporting by Gordon Bell; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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