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China plane crash kills 54


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Rescuers work at the crash scene.
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Officials investigate cause of China plane crash. CNN's Tara Duffy reports (November 21)
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China
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Inner Mongolia

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- A commuter jet has crashed into a frozen lake in northern China seconds after takeoff, killing all 53 people aboard and one on the ground.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation and the flight data recorder has not been located, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Firefighters and rescue workers recovered the bodies of all 53 passengers and crew from the lake near the Inner Mongolian city of Baotou, according to Xinhua.

One of the passengers was Indonesian and the rest were Chinese nationals.

The Canadian-made Bombardier CRJ200, with six crew members, took off from Baotou in the northern Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, about 560 kilometers (350 miles) west of Beijing en route to Shanghai.

The plane went down about 8:20 a.m. Sunday (1220 GMT), about 10 seconds after leaving the airport 2 kilometers (1.5 miles) away.

Witnesses said they saw the China Eastern Airlines plane break into flaming fragments, which set a house and several yachts on fire.

Wang Yongqiang, who lives near the park, said he saw black smoke billowing from the tail of the plane before it crashed and broke into fiery fragments, Xinhua said.

He also heard "a big blast" when the plane was still in the air, the agency said.

The weather was clear and cold in Baotou on Sunday, Xinhua said. State TV showed pieces of the burned plane in the lake and emergency workers in small rowboats pushing ice out of their way.

China Eastern has grounded all Bombardier planes amid the investigation.

The latest crash in China follows a spate of deadly plane crashes in the 1990s, prompting safety measures to be tightened and airplanes in the state-controlled aviation industry to be upgraded.

The last major crash was on May 7, 2002, when a China Northern Airlines MD-82 plunged into the sea off the northern city of Dalian, killing 112 people.

Officials blamed arson by a passenger who had taken out seven life insurance policies.


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