- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 28, 2009

SHANGHAI (AP) — A cargo plane crashed as it took off from Shanghai’s main airport Saturday, killing three American crew members and injuring four other employees after it veered off the runway and burst into flames.

Three Americans on the seven-member crew died and a fourth American was injured, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Buangan told The Associated Press. He did not know the injured person’s condition.

Shanghai television showed what it called a 61-year-old American co-pilot in a hospital bed, conscious and saying “Thank you” to staff and officials.

The TV report said the other crew were from Indonesia, Belgium and Zimbabwe.

The aircraft’s tail struck the ground on takeoff, China Central Television reported. Footage showed black smoke billowing from the wreckage.

The crash at Shanghai Pudong International Airport occurred just after 8 a.m. (0000 GMT), the official Xinhua News Agency said. The plane was headed to Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan.

Xinhua said the three people died at the People’s Hospital of Pudong New Area. A propaganda official there had no comment Saturday night.

The aircraft was operated by Zimbabwe-based Avient Aviation. An Avient Harare official said the flight was operated out the United Kingdom and could not say what cargo was on board. The official was not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

State media said the plane was an MD-11. In March, another MD-11 cargo plane crashed and exploded while landing at Japan’s largest international airport, killing its two American pilots. Xinhua said another MD-11 with Korean Air crashed shortly after takeoff 10 years ago at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport.

More than 30 international flights from the Shanghai airport were delayed Saturday morning, leaving about 4,000 travelers stranded on planes or in airport lounges, Xinhua said. CCTV said two runways at the airport were shut down.

Shanghai is China’s largest city and its economic capital. The Pudong airport is located on the eastern edge of the city, by the East China Sea.

Recent crashes in China include two Chinese air force jets colliding in June 2008 in Inner Mongolia, with both pilots parachuting to safety. In June 2006, a Chinese military plane crashed in eastern Anhui province, killing all 40 people aboard.

Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Beijing and Angus Shaw in Harare, Zimbabwe contributed to this report.

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