BUDAPEST, Hungary – A Slovak military plane carrying troops back from Kosovo crashed into a mountainside in northeastern Hungary, killing at least 42 people, officials said Friday.
Only one person survived after the AN-24 aircraft went down Thursday near the Slovak border, said National Police spokesman Laszlo Garamvolgyi. The survivor was taken to a hospital in the Slovak city of Kosice but there was no immediate word on his condition.
Tibor Dobson, spokesman for Hungary's national catastrophe rescue service, said there were 43 people on board the plane and that all but one died, based on a passenger list provided by the Slovak Embassy in the Hungarian capital of Budapest.
That included 35 passengers who all had some kind of military rank and eight crew members, Dobson said.
But Garamvolgyi said there were 45 people on board and that 44 were killed. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained.
A NATO officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on to the media, said in Kosovo that the plane was carrying Slovak soldiers back home after serving in the NATO-led peacekeeping force. Officials say Slovak troops help patrol the boundary between Kosovo and Serbia.
According to a statement from the local police, the plane cut off the tops of trees along a 400-yard stretch before slamming into the mountainside. Air traffic controllers lost sight of the aircraft just after 7:30 p.m. and authorities began receiving reports of a crash from eyewitnesses shortly thereafter.
"An initial inspection revealed that the airplane ... was not carrying weapons, ammunition or explosives," the Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen County police said in a statement.
Gergely Abraham, a spokesman for the Economic and Transport Ministry said the area where the crash occurred about 155 miles northeast of Budapest was not heavily populated, but did not provide other details.
Hungarian rescuers and fire crews were at the crash site, Hungarian Interior Ministry spokesman Sandor Orodan said.
The Czech news agency CTK reported Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda had called a late-night meeting with Cabinet ministers.
The agency also said the Slovak army sent a helicopter to the crash site, but that it was unable to land because of bad weather.