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4 Die in Airplane Fire in Norway

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

OSLO, Norway —  Four people died Tuesday when a charter plane skidded off a runway and burst into flames at an airport built out into a Norwegian fjord, police said.

Rescue officials said 12 other people aboard were rescued without serious injury and one was missing.

Thor Buberg, of the district police, said four victims had been found in or near the wreckage, including one reported missing after initial confusion over the number rescued.

Police and rescue officials at first said they counted 13 survivors. However at a news conference later Tuesday police said they only had accounted for 12 people and renewed search efforts for one who was missing.

The British Aerospace BAe 146-200 jet with a capacity of 83 passengers and six crew was operated by Atlantic Airways of the Faeroe Islands. It had taken off from the southwestern Norwegian Sola Airport, near Stavanger, and skidded and caught fire upon landing at the Stord Airport, further north, said Anders Bang-Andersen, of the Norwegian Rescue Center.

The cause of the accident had not been determined. The national crash investigation board was sending a six-member team to the accident site.

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In a statement, Atlantic Airways said its aircraft apparently was damaged and caught fire after it overshot the runway with 13 passengers and three crew aboard.

The airport's western runway, where the accident occurred, is built along and out into the waters of a fjord, police said. Rescuers called in fire crews, ambulances, helicopters and even ships and boats, in case any victims had ended up in the water. Victims and survivors were found on land.

Police said the names of the three passengers and one crew member who died were being withheld pending notification of their families.

At a news conference, District Police Chief Odd Magne Haaversen said 13 people at first were listed as survivors, but that count turned out to be 12, with one missing who was later found dead.

Swedish airline pilot Sven-Erik Stranberg, who heads Atlantic's Norwegian base at the Sola Airport, landed an identical plane at Stord just before the accident, and watched the plane land.

"The landing and weather conditions were fine. Everything seemed fine,"he said on the Norway's NRK radio."Then another colleague came in and said there might be something wrong, because there was smoke from the end of the runway."

Fritz Arne Lilleskog, also of the district police, said the fire was brought under control after about an hour, but that the heat from the wreckage had slowed efforts to search the plane.

"We don't know what happened. It was during descent and landing, but that is all we know,"he said. Lilleskog said the aircraft was severely damaged, but that he had no reports of serious injuries to those rescued.

Photographs posted on the Internet sites of Norwegian newspapers showed a ball of fire and clouds of smoke coming from end of the runway.

The plane was chartered by shipbuilding and construction firm Aker Stord, a subsidiary of engineering group Aker Kvaerner,the company said.

It was bringing workers helping build a land-based terminal at Molde, farther up the Norwegian coast, for Norsk Hydro ASA offshore natural gas project Ormen Lange, but was making a stopover on Stord, an island about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Stavanger, Aker Kvaerner said.

The Norsk Hydro petroleum and light metals group said it was temporarily stopping work at the terminal out of respect for the victims.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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