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21 Dead in US Plane Crash - 2003-01-08


A small commuter plane has crashed in the U.S. state of North Carolina killing all 21 people on board.

U.S. aviation officials say the U.S. Airways plane crashed and exploded shortly after takeoff from Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

One witness says the twin-engine Beech 1900 turboprop plane burst into flames when it crashed, sending a thick cloud of smoke over the airport.

"I saw a plane going straight up in the air and then all of a sudden it flipped over and started nose-diving straight into the ground," said the witness. "Then I saw a ball of fire."

Officials say the plane clipped the side of a maintenance building as it was taking off in clear, windy weather. The flight was destined for an airport in Greenville, South Carolina.

No one on the ground was hurt in the crash.

Air Midwest is a subsidiary of Mesa Airlines, and company officials say the plane was eight years old.

This was the first U.S. commercial plane crash since 2001, and officials have ruled out any link to terrorism.

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