ALGIERS, Algeria – An Algerian military transport plane slammed into a mountain Tuesday in the country’s rugged eastern region, killing 77 people and leaving just one survivor, the defense ministry said.
Air traffic controllers lost radio and radar contact with the U.S.-built C-130 Hercules turboprop just before noon and dispatched helicopters to try to find it.
The plane was discovered in pieces on Mount Fortas near the town of Ain Kercha, 30 miles southeast of Constantine, the main city in eastern Algeria.
The plane was heading to Constantine from the southern Saharan city of Tamanrasset, which has a massive military presence because it’s close to the country’s unstable southern borders. The plane was at least 24 years old, according to sales information supplied by its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp.
The plane carried 74 passengers and four crew members, the military said in its statement, blaming poor weather for the crash.
The lone survivor – a soldier – suffered head injuries and was treated at a nearby military facility before being flown to the military hospital in Algiers, a retired Algerian intelligence officer told The Associated Press.
Civil defense officials at the snowy crash site said the plane broke into three parts and that women and children were among the dead. Military transports in Algeria routinely carry not only soldiers but military families and sometimes other civilians.
Commander Farid Nechad told the AP that 55 bodies had been recovered so far but conditions at the crash site were difficult.
Unfavorable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region were behind the crash, the defense ministry said.
The presidency announced a three-day period of mourning, calling the soldiers who had died martyrs for the country.