Minutes after take off from a small airfield near the city of Namur, Belgium, a plane carrying skydivers crashed, killing all 11 people aboard. Witnesses saw a piece of the wing break off, sending the plane into a nosedive. Jean-Claude Nihoul, the mayor of Namur, said the skydivers and instructors “were not able to jump out”.
Both King Phillipe and Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo visited the scene of the accident Saturday night. Di Rupo said “it has been a long time we have suffered a tragedy of such kind”.
The victims were all between the ages of 20 and 40 and “the trip was a birthday gift for all of them,” said Nihoul. The 11 victims were not immediately identified by name and the authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident.
The plane, Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter, took off in partly cloudy conditions over the wooded and hilly area about 40 miles (60 kilometers) south of Brussels.
Nicolas Hormans of the Paraclub Namur, whose skydivers were among the victims, told RTL network that the plane was probably about 3 kilometers (2 miles) high when it went down. He said the nosedive would have thrown everyone aboard around with such force that they would not have been able to jump out and parachute to safety.
Such plane crashes in Belgium are fairly rare.