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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 22:47 GMT
Executives named in crash dead
Crash scene
Emergency crews launched a major operation
Two top executives have been named as being among the five people who died when a private jet crashed during take-off from Birmingham Airport.

Three crew and two passengers were on board the aircraft, a twin-engine nine-seater Canadair Challenger.

Initial reports said the plane clipped its wings on the ground during take-off bound for Bangor in Maine, USA, then onwards to a final destination.

John Shumejda
John Shumejda travelled to Birmingham up to eight times a year
All five of the dead were US citizens.

Agco, the global agricultural equipment manufacturer, said that its chief executive John Shumejda and Ed Swingle, senior vice president for sales and marketing, were among the victims.

The company owns Massey Ferguson tractors and the executives were returning from a regular management meeting in Coventry.

Fire crews based at the airport were on the scene within a minute after the crash, which happened shortly after 1200 GMT.

Thick smoke

Eyewitness Joan Hood, who lives near the airport, said: "We heard a muffled explosion and went out into the front of the house and saw a black plume of acrid smoke about 100 feet high.

"The smoke was very thick and our house still smells of it now."

Gordon Stretch, who was driving into the airport's long stay car park at the time of the crash, added: "I could see an aircraft had crashed in the centre of the airfield.

Ed Swingle
Ed Swingle was expecting a second grandchild
"It was surrounded by firefighters who put the fire out within minutes.

"I spoke to one or two people who saw the crash and apparently the plane rolled over to the left just as it took off.

"The plane is in two parts with the wings and undercarriage in the air. It is a complete burnt out wreck."

The airport was closed after the incident and more disruption is expected during Saturday.

At least 52 flights - take-offs and landings - had been disrupted or diverted, with another 150 due to be affected by the shutdown, according to an airport spokesman.

Black box

Flights scheduled to land at Birmingham were being diverted to Manchester, Coventry and East Midlands airports, with coaches in place to bring passengers to and from the terminal.

Birmingham Airport managing director Brian Summers confirmed that the black box data recorder had been retrieved from the jet.

He said it had been due to fly to a destination in the southern states of the US following its refuelling stop in Bangor. Agco is based in Duluth, Georgia.

Inside a Challenger aircraft
The Challenger aircraft was registered in 1999
Adri Verhagen, an Agco vice-president, said the executives were returning from a regular management meeting in Coventry and went through Birmingham up to eight times a year.

Mr Verhagen said the two men were "well respected" as individuals and businessmen.

Mr Shumejda, 54, of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, was married with no children and enjoyed fishing off the coast in his boat near his home during weekends.

Mr Swingle, 59, of Bonita Springs, also in Florida, was described as a "family man", married with one daughter and expecting a second grandchild.

Workers 'stunned'

Company executives' travel arrangements would be reviewed in light of the crash, Mr Verhagen said.

He told a news conference at the airport: "The situation has stunned everyone in the US as well as in Coventry."

The aircraft was ultimately owned by Fleet National Bank, one of whose divisions leases executive jets to other companies.

The plane was registered with the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 30 December 1999 and had not undergone any modifications since entering service, the FAA's official records showed.

The BBC's Emma Simpson
"It is still unclear what caused the crash"

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

06 Jan 02 | England
In pictures: Birmingham jet crash
04 Jan 02 | England
Private jets' popularity grows
15 Nov 01 | Business
Business demand for air taxis
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