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1961: Belgian jet crashes seconds before landing
At least 73 people have been killed after a Boeing 707 jet airliner crashed at Berg, near Brussels airport, just before it was due to land.

The Sabena Airlines plane exploded as it hit the ground. The 73 victims included 11 crew and a man working in a field where the plane came down.

Most of the passengers were American. They included 17 members of the United States figure-skating team who were on their way to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to take part in the world championships next week.

Lost contact

The aircraft crashed into a field near farms, tearing into electric cables before hitting the ground.

One Belgian official said the pilot lost contact with the Brussels control tower immediately after being handed over from Ostend radio station and while the Boeing was still 25 miles from Brussels.

The pilot tried to land the plane but overshot the runway and turned round to make a second approach.

The official added: "The pilot apparently tried to gain height again after coming in to land, but failed. Something strange seemed to have happened. The aircraft spiralled down in small circles before it finally crashed."

A village priest who saw the crash said there was a flash and "the aircraft began to lose height rapidly and nosedived. There was a terrific bang and smoke mushroomed sky-high".

King Baudouin and Queen Fabiola of Belgium have been to the scene of the crash. Wreckage from the plane is scattered in a muddy field close to a farming hamlet, about three miles from the airport runway.

The plane's flight recorder has already been recovered. Investigators hope it will help them identify the cause of the crash.

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Wreckage showing Sabena logo on tailfin and houses behind
The aircraft came down in a field close to farm houses


In Context
An investigation into the cause of the crash began the following day. American FBI officers flew in from New York to work with Belgian detectives and experts on aircraft construction.

The world figure skating championships due to have been held in Prague the following week were cancelled.

A final report into the crash was inconclusive. It said the most likely cause was the failure of the plane's flying controls.

The Federal Aviation Authority concluded the aircraft's stabiliser mechanism could have failed, causing the plane to bank too steeply and lose control.

A memorial fund was set up in memory of the US figure-skating team.

In 2001, a skating tribute was held at Madison Gardens in New York in memory of those killed in the crash.

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