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All 118 people on board a flight from London Heathrow to Brussels were died when the airliner crashed minutes after take-off.

The British European Airways plane came down in a field in Staines, missing the town centre by just a few hundred yards. It is the worst disaster in British aviation history.

The Trident jet - which had been involved in another accident in 1968 - left Heathrow at 1708 BST and was only three miles (4.8 km) from the airport when witnesses said it "dropped out of the sky".

The airline said it did not know what had caused flight BE548 to crash, but BEA chairman Henry Marking told reporters there was "no reason" to suspect sabotage.

Witnesses said the three-engined plane broke into two as it fell - the fuselage ploughed into trees bordering a reservoir and the tail section landed 50 yards (45.7 m) away.

"I heard the plane circling overhead and there was a spluttering sound as though the engines were cutting out - then there was a thud like a clap of thunder," said 15-year-old Adrian Bailey.

Rescuers pulled two people alive from the wreckage of the airliner - a young girl, who died at the scene, and a Dublin businessman who was taken to a local hospital where he died a few hours later.

Heathrow airport Catholic chaplain Father Peter Knott reached the site of the crash within 10 minutes and said it was a scene of total devastation.

"There was chaos inside the aircraft - it looked as if everybody had been killed instantaneously," he said.


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