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2 Killed When UPS Cargo Plane Crashes In Alabama

Debris burns as a UPS cargo plane lies on a hill near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport after crashing Wednesday.
Hal Yeager
Debris burns as a UPS cargo plane lies on a hill near Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport after crashing Wednesday.

We're monitoring the news from Birmingham, Ala., where a UPS cargo plane crashed Wednesday morning. UPS says the incident involves UPS Flight 1354, which was traveling from Louisville.

The flight, which would normally last about 45 minutes, had been scheduled to land before 5 a.m. local time, according to several flight-tracking websites. Louisville is in the Eastern time zone, while Birmingham is in the Central.

We'll update this post as details emerge.

Update at 1:30 p.m. ET: Residents Report Close Call

As the UPS jet headed for a nearby hillside, the last house it passed over belongs to Cornelius and Barbara Benson, who say the plane clipped the tops of two pine trees in their yard, the news site reports.

"I thought at first it was the End Time," Barbara Benson says of the loud crash and the bright red flash that followed.

"Judging from the broken treetops in the Bensons' yard, the plane had flown 20 feet or less above their home," says.

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET: Two Crew Deaths Reported; Details From NTSB

The two-person crew of the plane — a pilot and co-pilot — died in the crash, Birmingham Mayor William Bell tells CBS and Reuters. Bell reportedly visited the scene this morning.

In a news conference held hours after the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board expressed its condolences to the pilots' families, according to Lousville reporter Gene Kang of .

"The crash occurred while on approach to Runway 18," the NTSB says. The agency is sending investigators to the scene.

Update at 9:05 a.m. ET: The Crash Scene; NTSB Sends Team To Site

The crash site is outside the fence-line of the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport, in a hilly green area. That information comes from the scene, where a reporter for the website says large parts of the plane lay some 50 yards apart in the field. Multiple fire trucks were spraying the smoldering field this morning.

Toni Herrera-Bast, a spokeswoman for Birmingham's airport authority, tells The Associated Press that there are no homes in the immediate area of the crash.

Local residents tell that they were told they do not need to evacuate the area — but that they also lost power, as it seems the plane may have clipped power lines on its way to the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it is sending a team to Alabama to help investigate the crash. The agency says it will hold a news conference at 9:15 a.m. ET.

Update at 7:55 a.m. ET. No Word On Crew, UPS Says:

The flight originated in Louisville, according to news reports. From there, WAVE-TV writes that it was an "Airbus A300 mid-size cargo carrier." And the station adds that:

" 'Our thoughts and prayers are with the crew,' said UPS spokesperson Mike Mangeot. He said there is no immediate information on the [two] crew members' conditions or the possible cause of the crash.

"According to Mangeot, UPS typically has two flights to Birmingham each day: one during the day and one at night."

On its Twitter page, UPS writes that it "has been notified of an incident involving one of our aircraft near Birmingham, AL."

Our original post, 7:11 a.m. ET:

From WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Ala.:

"We have breaking news out of East Birmingham this morning where a large plane has crashed near the Birmingham airport.

"According to initial reports a UPS Cargo Plane has crashed near 19th Avenue North and North East Lake Boulevard. Alabama's 13 has a crew on the scene and according to the crew the plane is burning and the crew is not allowed to get closer due to explosions. There have now been at least 3 explosions. There could be debris covering about half a mile."

Birmingham's WBRC-TV reports that:

"A spokesperson for the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport has confirmed a plane crash on Wednesday morning. Toni Herrera-Bast says a large cargo plane crashed around 5 a.m. near North East Lake Boulevard. The crash scene is not within the airport fence. Two people were on board the plane. At this time, they have not been located."

We'll update as we hear more.

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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