PALAICHORE, Greece ( Associated Press) — A team of experts was scheduled to survey a plane crash site in Greece on Sunday to determine whether any hazardous substances or explosive material remained.
An AN-12 cargo plane crashed into a field between the two cities on Saturday night. Locals said they saw a ball of fire and heard explosions for about two hours after the fire broke out. Even on Sunday morning, a column of white smoke was rising from the front of the plane.
Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told a news conference on Sunday that all eight crew members had been killed. The aircraft was carrying 11.5 tonnes of Serbian-made mortar ammunition bound for Bangladesh, which was the buyer. They had taken off from the city of Nis in Serbia and were to stop in Amman, Jordan.
The plane was operated by the Ukrainian freight company Meridian, and the Ukrainian consulate in Thessaloniki, who was present at the scene, told local authorities that all the crew were Ukrainians.
“They were lighting and training mortar mines (…). The flight had all the necessary permits according to international regulations,” Stefanovic said.
The plane crashed shortly before 11 p.m. local time, about 40 kilometers (25 mi) west of Kavala International Airport. A few minutes earlier, the plane’s pilot told air traffic controllers that one of its engines had a problem and had to make an emergency landing. They were directed to Kavala airport, but they never arrived.
The aircraft was a four-engine, turboprop, Soviet-era transport craft.
Drone footage shows only small fragments of the crashed plane. Firefighters who arrived at the scene in the night could not reach the spot due to the smoke and strong smell, which they feared that it might be poisonous.
Neighbors in the area were instructed to keep their windows closed throughout the night, not to step out of their homes and wear masks. Officials said they did not know if there was any hazardous substance in the battery on the plane.
A special unit of the military specializing in handling nuclear, biological and chemical substances will search the site, although it was not expected to arrive before 1:00 pm (1000 GMT).
The fire service cordoned off the entire area within a radius of 400 meters.
The mayor of the municipality of Paggaio, which has two nearby towns, banned the movement of vehicles on the roads in the area.
Nellas reported from Athens, Greece and Gec from Belgrade, Serbia.