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EgyptAir Plane Crashes in Tunisia

May 7, 2002

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TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) _ An EgyptAir plane with 55 people aboard crashed Tuesday while trying to land near Tunis in bad weather, according to the airline and the national news agency. Egyptian officials said there were at least 15 deaths.

Viewed from a distance, the plane, a Boeing 737, was resting on a hill in the area of a park about four miles from the Tunis-Carthage airport, and black smoke was rising from the site. Ambulances rushed to the scene.

The control tower had lost contact with the plane a few seconds before the crash, just after a distress call from the pilot, according to the national news agency, TAP.

Egyptian officials in Tunis, speaking on Egyptian state TV, said there were 15 or 16 deaths and said the plane has been attempting an emergency landing. TAP said there were at least five deaths. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the reports.

EgyptAir’s vice president for safety, Shaker Qilada, said a total of 55 people were aboard the plane, which originated in Cairo, and that there were survivors.

``We have spoken to people on board″ since the crash, he told The Associated Press in Cairo.

Witnesses also said it appeared there were survivors.

Weather was foggy and rainy at the time, with a sandy wind, called the ``khamsin,″ blowing from the Sahara desert.

On Oct. 31, 1999, an EgyptAir Boeing 767 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, killing all 217 people aboard.

Before 1999, it had been 23 years since EgyptAir had a major crash. In 1976, an EgyptAir plane crashed during approach to the Bangkok, Thailand airport, killing 72 passengers and crew members. In 1985, Egyptian troops stormed an EgyptAir plane being held by hijackers in Malta. Sixty passengers and crew were killed.

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