TEHRAN, Iran — A military plane loaded with Iranian journalists crashed into a 10-story apartment building Tuesday as the pilot attempted an emergency landing after developing engine trouble. At least 115 people died, the Tehran police chief said.
Witnesses initially said the C-130 hit the top of the building. But officials, including Police Chief Mortaza Talaei, said one wing of the transport plane hit the second floor as the fuselage crashed to ground, gouging out a huge crater and causing a fire that spread through the structure.
Everyone on the plane — 84 passengers and a crew of 10 — was killed. Most were Iranian radio and television journalists heading to cover military maneuvers in southern Iran.
Twenty-one people in the apartment building also died, and 90 were injured, Tehran state radio said. Only nine of the injured were hospitalized late Tuesday, Talaei said on Iranian television.
Initial reports said 128 people total had died.
The C-130, a four-engine turboprop, crashed in the Azari suburb of Tehran, site of the Towhid apartment complex that is home to air force personnel and near Tehran’s Mehrabad airport.
Before firefighters extinguished the blaze, flames roared from the roof and windows in several of the upper floors. Panicked residents fled the building. Police held back a crowd of thousands, many of them screaming and weeping that they had to find friends or loved ones who were in the building.
Scuffles broke out and police beat back onlookers and those trying to reach the building to keep the way open for emergency vehicles.
Several hours after the crash, the building still was smoldering, with black smoke hanging in the air.
'Like being in hell'
“It was like an earthquake,” said Reza Sadeqi, a 25-year-old merchant, who saw the plane hit the building and added he was thrown about 9 feet inside his shop by the force of the crash.
“I felt the heat of the fire caused by the crash. It was like being in hell,” he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, sent his condolences.
“Rescue teams are required to employ their maximum capability to save and help the survivors,” state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. He asked one of his deputies to take charge and ensure survivors receive all the help necessary.
The aircraft had just taken off from the nearby Mehrabad Airport en route to the southern port of Bandar Abbas. The plane experienced a technical problem and was returning to the airport for an emergency landing when it hit the building, state-run television said.
Witness Iraj Mordin told AP the plane appeared to be circling the airport when its tail suddenly burst into flames, leaving a smoke trail as it plummeted. He said he thought the plane was going to crash into a gas station and fled, but turned and saw it slam into what he thought was the building’s eighth floor.
The plane, which belonged to the army air force, carried 84 passengers and a crew of 10, state TV reported. All aboard were killed, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, told The Associated Press.
The C-130 is built by Lockheed and has four turboprop engines. The plane may have been sold to the Iranian air force when the United States had close relations with the Iranian monarch, Shah Reza Pahlavi, before the Islamic revolution in 1979.
In April, an Iranian military Boeing 707 with 157 people aboard skidded off a runway at Tehran airport and caught fire, killing three people. Last year, a Ukrainian-built aircraft carrying aerospace scientists crashed in central Iran, killing all 44 people aboard.
In 2003, a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people. And in 1988, an Iran Air A300 Airbus was shot down by the USS Vincennes over the Persian Gulf, killing 290.
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