A small plane heading towards Libya’s coast from Malta crashed on Monday killing all five French crew members who were studying migrant routes for the French government.
According to authorities, the twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner crashed soon after it took off from Malta’s airport.
The plane was seen to have slammed into the ground in a huge fireball after banking to the right soon after lifting off at 7:20 am local time, in a video captured by a dashboard camera. The video was posted on video.
Malta’s government confirmed all victims were French.
The flight was part of a French Customs surveillance operation tracing routes of illicit trafficking – both of humans and drugs – leaving Libya’s ‘lawless coasts’.
Libya is the main point of departure for the tens of thousands of migrants who have been paying smugglers to bring them toward Europe by boat.
Earlier, authorities had said the flight was headed to Misrata, Libya. The government said later that the aircraft was due to return to Malta within a few hours without landing elsewhere.
Malta International Airport is used for surveillance flights to Libya due to its proximity. The government said the French Customs operation has been active for about five months.
The airport was closed for four hours while debris was cleared, delaying more than a dozen flights, according to a notice on the airport website.