updated 3/18/2010 2:47:46 PM ET 2010-03-18T18:47:46

A cargo plane made an emergency landing Thursday on the frozen surface of a lake outside Estonia's capital, spilling 1.5 tons of fuel that risked polluting the city's main source of drinking water, authorities said.

The DHL-chartered Antonov AN26 turboprop was forced to belly-land on the ice of Lake Ulemiste next to Tallinn due to landing gear and engine problems, Economy Ministry spokesman Kalev Vapper said. One of the six crew members — all Polish — suffered minor injuries.

The plane carried 3 tons of engine fuel and about half of it leaked onto the ice from its fuel tanks, rescue board spokesman Teet Pille said. The other half was being pumped out of the aircraft.

Emergency crews used absorbent mats and booms to recover the leaked fuel to prevent it from contaminating the lake, which supplies about 90 percent of the drinking water used by Tallinn's 400,000 residents.

"The situation regarding water quality is under control at the moment," Tallinna Vesi, the municipal water company, said in a statement. It added that it had ordered additional chemicals to treat the water if needed.

The plane was arriving from the Finnish capital, Helsinki, and preparing to land at Tallinn's airport when both of its landing gear systems failed to lower, officials said. Later, while the plane was making a second approach toward the airport, one of its engines malfunctioned. The pilot then decided to land on the iced-over lake.

Vapper said it was "most unusual" that a plane would make an emergency landing on ice.

"It was a dangerous situation because the ice on the lake had already started to melt," he said. "We've been very lucky to have had such a harsh winter."

The plane, owned by Polish air cargo company Exin Co. Ltd, was chartered by DHL to fly between Tallinn and Helsinki.

Crews used winches to keep the plane from sinking through the ice. It was not immediately clear how they would try to pull it from the lake.

Estonian authorities said they would investigate the incident.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments