TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A military plane loaded with Iranian journalists crashed into a 10-story apartment building yesterday as the pilot attempted an emergency landing after developing engine trouble. At least 115 people died, the Tehran police chief said.
The C-130, a four-engine turboprop, crashed in the Azari suburb of Tehran, site of the Towhid apartment complex that is home to air force personnel and near Tehran’s Mehrabad airport.
Before firefighters extinguished the blaze, flames roared from the roof and windows in several of the upper floors. Panicked residents fled the building. Police held back a crowd of thousands, many of them screaming and weeping that they had to find friends or loved ones who were in the building.
Scuffles broke out and police beat back onlookers and those trying to reach the building to keep the way open for emergency vehicles.
Several hours after the crash, the building still was smoldering, with black smoke hanging in the air.
“It was like an earthquake,” said Reza Sadeqi, a 25-year-old merchant who saw the plane hit the building. He said he was thrown about nine feet inside his shop by the force of the crash.
“I felt the heat of the fire caused by the crash. It was like being in hell,” he said.
Witnesses initially said the plane hit the top of the building. But officials, including Police Chief Mortaza Talaei, said one wing of the transport plane hit the second floor as the fuselage crashed to the ground, gouging out a huge crater and causing a fire that spread through the structure.
Everyone on the plane – 84 passengers and a crew of 10 – was killed. Most were Iranian radio and television journalists heading to cover military maneuvers in southern Iran.
Twenty-one people in the apartment building also died, and 90 were injured, Tehran state radio said. Only nine of the injured were hospitalized late yesterday, Talaei said on Iranian television.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, sent condolences.
“Rescue teams are required to employ their maximum capability to save and help the survivors,” state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. He asked one of his deputies to take charge and ensure survivors receive the help they need.