11 die as 'overloaded' plane crashes in Poland
A light plane from a parachute club that crashed in southern Poland, killing 11 people and leaving the lone survivor seriously injured, may have been carrying too many passengers, local media reported.
"Twelve people were on board the plane and the only survivor was taken to hospital and is in a serious condition," said Justyna Sochacka, a spokeswoman for the emergency services.
The light twin-engine aircraft, a Piper Navajo, took off from an airfield in Rudniki near Czestochowa on Saturday with 11 parachutists and a pilot on board, according to reports.
The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but the Polish media suggested the plane's engine may have failed due to there being too many passengers on board.
Quoting anonymous sources close to the case, the PAP news agency reported that the aircraft could have been overloaded, and temperatures of 27 degrees Celsius in the area may have contributed to the engine overheating.
Eyewitnesses said its engines began making an odd, droning sound before the aircraft began to fall from the sky.
"It was flying from the south and the engine was making strange sounds," said eyewitness Barbara Minczykiewicz, a resident of the village of Topolow where the plane crashed, quoted by Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
"It was flying very low, close to houses. It tilted to one side on its wing and caught fire," she said.
Village residents found one person alive and two bodies outside the aircraft, which was engulfed entirely by flames, according to Minczykiewicz.
Robert Koziol, another witness, told Gazeta Wyborcza it appeared some of the passengers had attempted to jump out of the plane as it careened to the ground.
"There were open parachutes lying on the ground. One parachutist survived, but two others who we also found outside the plane didn't," the retired police officer said.
"The worst thing was that one person tried to get out of it [the plane] but slid back inside. We tried to help them, but there was nothing we could do; everything was on fire, even the ground," he added.
A special air accidents investigator, who by coincidence was flying in another plane to the Rudniki airfield at the time of the accident, said he heard no distress call from the pilot of the doomed plane.
He said a malfunction must have occurred immediately after take-off as the crash site is just three kilometres from the runway.