Plane swayed 'like it was in air show'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 November, 2004, 12:00am

A plane that plunged into a frozen lake in Inner Mongolia yesterday morning, killing 54 people, swayed as if it was performing aerial acrobatics moments before crashing, witnesses said.

The China Eastern Airline commuter plane crashed less than a minute after takeoff in Baotou, killing all on board.

Local resident Wang Yongqiang said the plane had been on fire before it plummeted from the sky and crashed into Nanhai Park, killing a person working in the ticket booth, then plunging into the park's frozen lake.

'I saw black smoke trailing the plane. Then it swayed and crashed,' Xinhua quoted Mr Wang as saying.

Another man who was doing his morning exercises in the park also saw the plane swaying. 'I thought it must have been part of an aerobatics performance - until it crashed,' he said.

Other witnesses cited by China News Service and Xinhuanet said the Shanghai-bound Bombardier CRJ200 exploded after climbing less than 100 metres into the air, creating a huge fireball.

There were 47 passengers on flight MU5210, including one Indonesian national, and six crew members. No Hong Kong residents were on board.

The Canadian-made aircraft broke into two pieces after hitting the ice, witnesses said. After extinguishing the blazing wreckage, about 100 firefighters and police searched among lumps of ice for bodies. Police divers also searched the freezing waters of the lake.

All of the bodies were recovered by last night - most of them were badly burned.

The cause of the crash is still unknown and the black box flight recorder had yet to be recovered last night.

The plane belonged to Eastern Airlines' Yunnan branch. The Shanghai-based carrier has grounded the remaining five Bombardiers in its fleet.