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Cargo plane crashes into mountain, killing six

December 23, 1996

NARROWS, Va. (AP) _ A cargo plane flying through freezing rain smashed into a mountain, killing all six people on board.

The DC-8 was on a maintenance trip Sunday evening from Greensboro, N.C., to Wilmington, Ohio, when it crashed and exploded in a remote forest near the Virginia-West Virginia state line. Three crew members and three mechanics died, authorities said.

``All we know is that there’s not a lot left,″ state police Sgt. David Shaver said Sunday. The wreckage was found scattered over 3,500 feet up the mountain, about 3 miles northwest of Narrows.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board planned to travel to the crash site today, Sgt. Lawrence Findley said.

At least two private planes also were involved in fatal crashes over the weekend.

Six family members on a holiday trip were killed Saturday when their single-engine plane slammed into a mountain in northern New Mexico. Rescuers who rappelled to the crash site found the wreck of the Beechcraft Bonanza in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on Sunday and planned to retrieve the bodies today.

A Piper Aztec headed from Las Vegas to Orange County, Calif., went into a tailspin and crashed into a dry lake bed Sunday, killing all four people aboard.

The cargo plane that crashed in Virginia belonged to Airborne Express’ subsidiary ABX Air, based in Wilmington, Ohio, company spokeswoman Rita Carey said. ABX Air had just bought the used plane.

``It was a test flight,‴ she said.

Nearby residents reported hearing what sounded like an engine cutting off and on and then an explosion, Findley said.

Jeff Drymiller said he heard the plane, ran outside and saw it hit.

``There was a big mushroom cloud _ a fireball,″ he said. ``The whole sky lit up.″

Stan Akers said he could tell the plane was having engine trouble.

``I said to myself, this plane is having a hard time getting over the mountain,″ he said. ``Then I saw it break through the clouds, with its landing lights on, and the second engine shut down. It was in a dive toward the ground, almost straight down.″

Airborne Express ranks third in the country in overnight freight delivery behind Federal Express and United Parcel Service. The company has more than 20,000 employees.

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