updated 6/8/2004 2:53:15 PM ET 2004-06-08T18:53:15

A small commercial airplane crashed Tuesday into the Atlantic shortly after takeoff from the capital of the West African nation of Gabon, killing at least 14 of the 30 people aboard, the airline said.

Ten others were rescued and were being treated at a hospital in the capital, Libreville.

The twin-engine propeller plane, traveling to the southern city of Franceville, crashed about 50 yards offshore, according to officials of Gabon Express, the private company operating the flight.

Regional Africa No. 1 radio said the crew had unspecified technical problems shortly after takeoff and tried unsuccessfully to make it back to the airport.

Rescuers saved 10 of the 26 passengers and four crew members aboard, company officials said.

Fourteen bodies were recovered by late afternoon, while six people were still missing.

French navy sailors based in the former French colony were helping Gabonese firefighters in the effort.

Recovery teams were trying to attach a cable to the plane’s cabin to drag it onto the beach.

At least two Lebanese were on board, and the passenger roster indicated several other foreign passengers, a company official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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