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21 killed in US plane crash

Charlotte (North Carolina), Jan. 8 (Reuters): A commuter plane crashed and exploded today shortly after takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, killing all 21 people on board, police and US aviation authorities said.

The Beech 1900 turboprop plane, US Airways Express Flight 5481 operated by Air Midwest, was headed to nearby Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, when it clipped the corner of a US Airways hangar on the airport grounds and burst into flame, officials and witnesses said.

The twin-engine plane carried 19 passengers and two crew members, airport director Jerry Orr told a news conference. “There were no survivors,” he said. Three workers on the ground were initially reported missing but were later accounted for and no one in the hangar was hurt, he said.

The last known radio contact with the plane was its clearance for takeoff and there was no indication from air traffic control of any problems at that time, aviation officials said.

Witnesses said the plane had just taken off when it appeared to circle back toward the airport. It burst into flames when it crashed shortly before 1600 GMT, sending a thick cloud of smoke over the field. Orr said the airplane took off to the south and veered left into the hangar. Fire crews doused the flames with foam and charred wreckage could be seen in a 30-metre area of debris just outside the hangar.

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