UPS Plane Struck Trees Before Breaking Apart Near Runway

The United Parcel Service Inc. plane that crashed today short of a runway at the Birmingham, Alabama, airport struck trees before hitting a hill and bursting into flames, a safety investigator said.

The Airbus SAS A300-600 broke into at least three pieces, Robert Sumwalt, a member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, said.

Smoldering fires have prevented investigators from reaching the plane’s cockpit-voice and data recorders, he said.

Sumwalt spoke in Birmingham at the first briefing after the accident, which occurred just before 5 a.m. local time. Both pilots died.

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