Fiery Plane Crash in Iran leaves 128 Dead!


Mommy to be!
TEHRAN, Iran - A plane loaded with Iranian journalists slammed into a 10-story apartment building Tuesday as the pilot attempted an emergency landing after developing engine trouble. At least 128 people were killed - 34 on the ground.
Witnesses said the C-130 plummeted to earth after ripping open the top of the building and igniting a large fire. Cars were smashed and debris was scattered over a wide area. Panicked residents fled the Towhid residential complex, a series of high-rise apartment buildings for air force personnel in the Azadi suburb of Tehran.
Officials said everyone on the plane, 84 passengers and a crew of 10, was killed. Most were Iranian radio and television journalists heading to cover military maneuvers in southern Iran. In addition to the 34 residents of the apartment building who died, 90 were injured, Tehran state radio said.
Firefighters extinguished the fire in the building, which was damaged and charred but still standing. Several hours after the crash, the building was still smoldering, with black smoke hanging in the air. Scuffles broke out as police tried to keep thousands of onlookers from getting near the site.
Many in the crowd were screaming, afraid their relatives had been killed.
"It was like an earthquake," said Reza Sadeqi, a 25-year-old merchant who saw the plane hit the building. He said he was thrown about nine feet inside his shop by the force of the crash.
"I felt the heat of the fire caused by the crash. It was like being in hell," he said.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, sent condolences.
"Rescue teams are required to employ their maximum capability to save and help the survivors," state-run television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying. He asked one of his deputies to take charge and ensure survivors receive the help they need.
The plane, which belonged to the army air force, had just taken off for Bandar Abbas in southern Iran when it developed engine trouble. As it headed back to Tehran's Mehrabad Airport, the pilot was unable to maintain sufficient altitude and hit the apartment complex, state-run television said.
The report discounted sabotage or terrorism. Aviation officials were not available for comment.
Witness Iraj Moradin told The Associated Press the plane appeared to be circling the airport when its tail suddenly burst into flames, leaving a smoke trail as it plummeted. He said he fled when he thought the plane was going to crash into a gas station, but turned in time to see it hit the building.
The C-130 is built by Lockheed and has four turboprop engines. The plane may have been sold to the Iranian air force when the United States had close relations with the Iranian monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, before the Islamic revolution in 1979.
In April, an Iranian military Boeing 707 with 157 people aboard skidded off a runway at Tehran airport and caught fire, killing three people. In 2003, a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people.
In 2002, a Ukrainian-built aircraft carrying aerospace scientists crashed in central Iran, killing all 44 people aboard. And in 1988, an Iran Air A300 Airbus was shot down by the USS Vincennes over the Persian Gulf, killing 290.