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South Sudan Plane Crash Victims

Dollar Photo Club / Nikolai Sorokin

South Sudan Plane Crash Victims

A cargo plane that was reportedly overloaded crashed along the banks of the Nile River after taking off from the South Sudan's capital, killing at least 25 people, witnesses and officials said, according to The Associated Press.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene of the crash saw the bodies, including those of women children. Parts of the plane were scattered in a bushy area on banks of the Nile with a few homes nearby. Packages of cheap sandals, cigarettes, beer and crackers were strewn amid the wreckage. The white tail section protruded from the brush.

Bashir Yashin, who saw the plane come down, told the AP that it seemed as though initially the plane might crash into a market area before the pilot apparently diverted it. Another witness, Angelo Kenyi, said a child, who looked no more than a year old, and an elderly woman were pulled from the fuselage.

Apparently all of those killed had been on the plane, local residents said, which crashed into a swampy, muddy farm plot in Juba with no structures. Onlookers quickly gathered near the site, about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from Juba's international airport. After the crash, planes were still taking off and landing at the airport.

Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP that the plane had been bound for the Paloich oil fields in Upper Nile state. Rebels and government forces have been battling for control of Upper Nile state. Juba, the capital, has been peaceful recently.

The Antonov plane crashed shortly after taking off, Ateny said. He gave no more details, the AP said.

Russian television channel LifeNews quoted an unnamed source at the Russian aviation agency as saying that the plane appeared to have been overloaded and that it was made in the Soviet Union in 1971. There has been no official reaction from Russian authorities so far.

It is common for the security services to put family members on the cargo planes to Paloich even if they are not on the manifest, according to Kenyi Galla, assistant operations manager for Combined Air Services, a company that operates chartered flights across South Sudan. The doomed flight was not chartered by his company, Galla told the AP.

Many parts of South Sudan, which became an independent nation in 2011, have been hit by violence since December 2013, with government forces under President Salva Kiir battling rebels led by his former deputy, Riek Machar. Fighting persists despite a peace agreement signed in August.

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