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5 from Michigan killed in Afghanistan aircraft crash

8:25 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Detroit Free Press) -- All seven crew members, including five people from Michigan, were killed Monday in a civilian cargo aircraft crash at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.

The National Airlines plane, a Boeing 747-400, was carrying vehicles and other cargo when it crashed at about 7 a.m. EST, shortly after takeoff from the military base, said Shirley Kaufman, vice president of Human Resources, Ethics and Compliance for National Airlines and National Air Cargo.

Kaufman confirmed the deaths of all the crew members on Monday night. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority are investigating the crash, she said.

Kaufman said there were four pilots, two mechanics and a load master, who is responsible for making sure that the weight and balance of the cargo is appropriate, on board at the time. There were no passengers.

"It's a very, very hard time," Kaufman said Monday night. "We're concerned for the families of our colleagues that we've lost. That's our primary focus."

National Airlines did not immediately release the names, ages or hometowns of the crew members. Their next-of-kin had all been notified, Kaufman said. National Airlines has a hotline for family members, 888-705-7560. Company representatives plan to personally meet with the crew members' families, Kaufman said.

National Airlines was based until recently in Ypsilanti at Willow Run Airport. Kaufman said the company began moving to Orlando, Fla. in December and completed the move at the end of March.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for Monday's crash, but the U.S.-led military coalition said in a statement: "Taliban's claims are false."

The coalition said the cause of the crash was being investigated by emergency crews that rushed to the site, but there was no sign of insurgent activity in the area at the time.

Capt. Luca Carniel, a coalition spokesman, said the aircraft crashed from a low altitude right after takeoff.

National Airlines, a subsidiary of National Air Cargo, carries cargo both commercially and for the military, Kaufman said. It has about 225 employees, she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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