A United Parcel Service cargo plane crashed upon its approach to Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday morning.
The Airbus A300 was en route from Louisville, Ky., when it crashed about half a mile north of the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport just after 5 a.m. local time, according to a UPS statement, and burst into flames. Local NBC affiliate WVTM-TV reports that the plane's pilot and copilot died in the crash and nearly 80 people are without power, as the plane hit power lines on its way down.
"This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved," said UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols in a statement."We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts."
The National Transportation Safety Board is launching an investigation into the cause of the crash.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell told reporters that the bodies of the two crew members are still in the plane and will not be removed until NTSB officials arrive. No other people on the ground were injured in the crash, according to AL.com.
"It's a tragedy anytime you have loss of life," Bell said. "I am grateful for the men and women of the police and fire departments who quickly got the scene under control."
The plane fell several thousand feet in a matter of minutes, according to the flight tracking site flightaware.com. At 4:42 a.m. local time, the plane was at an altitude of 12,000 feet, but just five minutes later, it had dropped to 1,500 feet.
When it crashed, the cargo plane broke into two pieces and caught on fire, WVTM-TV reported. Debris was scattered in the area, but the fire was contained.
Chris Evans, 60, lives near the Birmingham airport and told AL.com that he heard the crash just before 5 a.m. Evans said he could see flames from the crash, and saw the door of the cockpit open, but no one came out.
"At first I thought it was thunder," he said. "The power went off and I looked out the window and saw nothing but fire."
Wednesday's incident is the second fatal crash in three years involving a UPS plane, according to the Courier-Journal. In September 2010, a UPS Boeing 747 that was carrying hundreds of lithium batteries crashed in Dubai, caught on fire and killed both crew members on board.