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Jet Crash in Amsterdam Kills Nine, Injures Dozens

A Turkish airplane has crashed as it tried to land. There were 135 people on board. The plane broke into three pieces when it hit the ground. It is unclear why the plane crashed. Video by AP

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By Kevin Sullivan and Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 25, 2009; 11:28 AM

LONDON, Feb. 25 -- A Turkish Airlines passenger jet crashed into a muddy field in Amsterdam and broke into at least three pieces Wednesday morning, killing nine and injuring dozens, officials said.

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About 134 people, including crew members, were aboard the Boeing 737, which was bound for Amsterdam's Schiphol International but came down at least a half-mile from a runway, according to one eyewitness. A busy highway separates the crash site from the airport.

Schiphol airport spokesman Ruud de Wever told reporters that nine people were killed, and 25 were badly wounded. Another two dozen or so had lesser injuries, officials said. Airline officials initially had said everyone on board the plane had survived.

"At this moment there are nine victims to mourn and more than 50 injured," said Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer, in a televised news conference. Haarlemmermeer is a suburb of Amsterdam where the airport is located.

News photos from the scene showed dozens of ambulances and rescue crews gathered around the white Boeing 737, which came to rest on its belly alongside the highway.

The plane broke into at least three pieces, with the worst damage at the rear of the fuselage. The wings appeared to be intact and there was no obvious evidence of explosion or fire.

The plane's engines had broken off and lay in the mud near the wreckage.

Candan Karlitekin, head of the board of Turkish Airlines, told reporters in Turkey that there were 127 passengers and seven crew members on the plane.

The plane's doors and emergency exits were open. Taco van der Eb, a Dutch news photographer who arrived shortly after the crash, said he saw passengers exiting the plane through the doors and over-wing window exits.

"I can see a white cloth over one body, and there are two shoes sticking out from under it," van der Eb said in a telephone interview. He said he also saw three more cloths amid the debris, including one that was bloodstained. But he said he could not tell whether there were bodies beneath those cloths.

Ambulances were being held on a small farm lane about 100 yards from the crash, unable to get any closer because of the deep mud in the field.

Van der Eb said tractors were used to carry passengers to the ambulances. He said there were also three emergency medical helicopters at the scene. Police and ambulance crews with bright vests and stretchers were standing by at the crash scene even after all surviving passengers had been taken away to a hospital.

Flight 1951 had left Istanbul early Wednesday morning, bound for the Netherlands. The jet crashed on approach to Schiphol, one of Europe's busiest airports.

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash. Van der Eb said the wrecked plane's nose was pointed in the direction of the runway as it lay in the field.

Turkish officials said the plane was built in 2003 and last inspected in December, CNN reported. It was least the third significant plane crash in the last six weeks. Forty-nine people were killed in Upstate New York on Feb. 12 when a commuter plane crashed near Buffalo, possibly due to icy conditions. And on Jan. 15, a USAirways Airbus made a soft landing in the Hudson River off Manhattan after its engines were disabled by a flock of passing geese. All 155 people on board survived.

Wilgoren reported from Washington.

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