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Probe starts into Polish airforce's worst crash
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13:48, January 25, 2008

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Poland opened an investigation yesterday into its worst military plane disaster, in which 20 air force personnel were killed.

The Spanish-made CASA C-295 transport plane crashed in a forest on Wednesday evening on its approach to the Miroslawiec military airport in northern Poland.

Four crew died along with 16 passengers, including an air force general and the commander of the base, who were returning from an air safety conference.

The head of Poland's air force, General Andrzej Blasik, said the special commission would require several days to produce an initial report.

Despite earlier media reports, officials said they had not yet recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the victims of the crash were a "huge loss for the Polish air force".

"Soldiers, husbands and fathers have died, and that is the most tragic result of this catastrophe," said Tusk, who had rushed to the site of the accident.

Tusk also said rescue workers were still looking for the black box in their effort to clarify what went wrong.

The plane had 25 people on board when it took off from Warsaw, but had already landed at two other military airports - in Powidz and Krzesiny, near Poznan - to return some to their home bases. It had been scheduled to make one more stop in the northwestern city of Swidwin before returning to base in Krakow.

"Nothing suggested that something bad may happen," General Wlodzimierz Usarek, who got off at the plane's stop in Krzesiny, told TVN24 news. "These were very good, experienced pilots."

Polish media described the accident as the worst military disaster in more than three decades, and President Lech Kaczynski, on a visit to Croatia, was cutting short his trip to return to Poland yesterday, a spokesman said.

The Polish parliament postponed its planned daily session yesterday in the wake of the accident. A Mass was planned at Warsaw's military church later in the day.

Source: China Daily/Agencies

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