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Body fragments found at U.S. plane crash site in Kyrgyzstan

May 04, 2013|By Sergei L. Loiko
  • Debris from a crashed KC-135 Stratotanker lie on a hill in the Kyrgyzstan countryside.
Debris from a crashed KC-135 Stratotanker lie on a hill in the Kyrgyzstan… (Sabyr Ailchiyev / AFP/Getty…)

MOSCOW -- Rescue teams found remains of two crew members Saturday morning at the site of a U.S. military plane crash in Kyrgyzstan, an official said.

“Fragments of two bodies have already been found as we are continuing the search,” Abisharip Bekilov, spokesman for the Kyrgyzstan Emergency Ministry, said in a phone interview from Bishkek, the capital of the former Soviet country in Central Asia.

“Rescue workers in the field are still looking for black boxes [flight recorders] which can help explain what happened to the plane.”

The U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker crashed Friday afternoon in a highland gorge 40 miles west of Bishkek shortly after its takeoff from a U.S. air base. The fueling plane operated by three crew members, all of them U.S. citizens, was heading to Afghanistan, where it is used to fuel coalition planes in flight.

Russia-24, a news television channel, ran images of rescuers and search parties on foot and horseback inspecting the smoking debris of the plane scattered for about a mile across green, grassy foothills. Eyewitnesses told the Emergency Ministry that they saw the burning plane breaking up in midair before it fell to the ground.

Over 40 people were still working on the crash site, Bekilov said.

The Manas air base was built in Bishkek in 2001 as a key installation to render transportation assistance for U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan. The lease for the base expires in 2014 and will not be renewed, Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev said last year.

sergei.loiko@latimes.com

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