Namur, Belgium — A parachuting class died in a plane crash on Saturday shortly after takeoff. All 11 people on board the plane were killed.
The crash happened minutes after the plane took off for a skydiving trip from a small airfield near Namur, Belgium. Witnesses reported seeing part of a wing break off, sending the aircraft spiraling to the ground.
CBS News reports that the plane’s wreckage landed in a field close to Fernelmont town, according to the town’s mayor, Jean-Claude Nihoul.
Nihoul added that the skydivers and their instructors “were not able to jump out” before the plane crashed. He added no one was hurt on the ground. No information was immediately given about what caused the accident.
The plane involved in Saturday’s accident was a Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter and it took off in partly cloudy conditions about 40 miles south of Brussels. Some of the parachutists killed in the plane crash were from Paraclub Namur, according to another member, Nicolas Hormans.
ABC News notes that Hormans told RTL network that the plane was about two miles high when it went down. He added that the nosedive it took would have thrown the parachutists around with such force that they couldn’t have jumped out and parachuted to safety. Still, three parachutes were found near the crash site, indicating that some of them were trying to get out, but couldn’t.
Nihoul added that the victims were all between the ages of 20 and 40, and most were men. He explained, “There were 11 on board, and the trip was a birthday present for one of them.” Plane crashes like the one that happened Saturday are fairly rare in Belgium, a European country of 11 million people.
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo confirmed the plane crash through a statement, saying his thoughts are with the families of the parachuting victims. Di Rupo and King Phillipe visited the scene of the accident on Saturday night.
[Image by Andre Wadman via Wikimedia Commons]