UK & World News
Ten Skydivers Killed In Belgium Plane Crash
A woman making her maiden parachute jump for her birthday was among ten skydivers and a pilot who died when their plane crashed in Belgium.
The plane took off from Temploux aerodrome, near Namur, and reached a height of about two miles before it suddenly started descending, coming down after about ten minutes in a field.
Some of the skydivers and their instructors attempted to jump to safety as the Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter went down but were also killed.
Witnesses have reported seeing part of the one of the wings falling off.
The aircraft came down between the small villages of Marchovlette and Fernelmont and burst into flames just before 4pm local time (3pm BST) on Saturday.
There are reports that one of the passengers was alive after the crash, but died in the inferno that broke out as it crashed.
Witness Benoit Pierson rushed to the plane when he saw it go down. "One of the passengers was still alive, smashed up, but alive," he told local television.
"Other passengers jumped at the last minute. They died in the field," he added.
Local politician Maxime Prevot said the woman who died was taking her first ever jump in order to celebrate her birthday.
One witness told Belgium's Sud Presse newspaper: "The plane flew over my house and I saw pieces fall from the plane.
"Then the plane pitched, and nose dived, crashing about 200 yards away."
Another witness told the RTL TV channel: "I just saw a plane lose its right wing in mid-flight and crash. I heard a massive 'bang' ... I didn't see anyone escape with a parachute."
Jean-Claude Nihoul, Mayor of Fernelmont, said: "Three parachutes open on the ground show that three people tried to jump," adding: "it is a tragedy that we had never known in the region."
The reason for the accident is not yet known but investigators have been summoned to the site to find out why the plane suddenly plunged to the ground from a height of around 3,000m.
Nicolas Hormans of the Paraclub Namur, whose skydivers were among the victims, told RTL network that the nosedive would have thrown everyone on board around with such force they would been unable to jump out and parachute to safety.
Efforts are also being made to confirm the identities of those who died.
Firefighters rushed to the scene, some 75 km (47 miles) south-east of Brussels, but are understood to have been unable to save any of those on board.
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo confirmed the news soon after, saying his thoughts were with the families of the victims.
The Prime Minister, the Belgian King Philippe and the country's interior minister later visited the scene.