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The BBC's June Kelly
"Toxic fumes spread over a wide area"
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 11:07 GMT
Fireball crash kills air crew

fire engine and flames A fire engine is dwarfed by the flames


A cargo plane crashed into a Californian scrapyard sparking a huge fire as about 200 cars burst into flames.

The crew of the DC-8, owned by Emery Worldwide transport service, reported problems immediately after taking off from the former Mather Air Force base on a flight to Dayton, Ohio.

Investigators say the three crew died in the crash, one mile from Mather, as they tried to return to the airfield.

Eyewitness Ernie Killinger said: "I saw the front half of the fuselage come out of the flames and the cockpit was straight up. It just rocked back and forth until it was engulfed by the flames."

Fires caused by the crash spread over a large expanse of the scrapyard near Sacramento with up to 200 cars ablaze.

Jim Whitehead, Federal Aviation Authority spokesman, said the pilot was attempting to return to Mather after reporting a "severe centre of gravity problem," which refers to the way cargo is loaded in the aircraft's hold.

Emery Worldwide specialises in transportation services for business shippers of heavyweight cargo, the company says on its website.

The company announced last week that it planned to replace its entire fleet of 28 McDonnell Douglas DC-8s over the next five years.
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