ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — In a Feb. 11 story about the crash that day of an Algerian military transport plane, The Associated Press erroneously identified the type of plane involved in a previous crash of an Algerian military plane in France. The plane that crashed in November 2012 was an EADS CASA C-295, not a Lockheed Martin C-130.
On Feb 12, a day after the crash, there was a dispute over the death toll. An Algerian civil defense spokesman reduced the death toll to 76 with one survivor but the Algerian military still insisted that 77 people died and one survived. There was no immediate way to rectify the discrepancy.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Algeria: Plane crash kills 76 but 1 man survives
Defense ministry: Algerian military plane crash kills 76 people but 1 soldier survives
By AOMAR OUALI and PAUL SCHEMM
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — An Algerian military transport plane slammed into a mountain Tuesday in the country's rugged eastern region, killing at least 76 people and leaving just one survivor, Algerian officials 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, 50 kilometers (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 due to its proximity to the country's unstable southern borders. It was at least 24 years old, according to sales information supplied by its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp.
In its statement, the military blamed poor weather for the crash.
"Unfavorable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region were behind the crash," the defense ministry said.
The death toll for the crash has varied significantly. Algerian government officials and Algerian state media had originally reported the plane had 99 passengers. Later Tuesday, the defense ministry said the death toll was 77, with one survivor. On Wednesday, a civil defense spokesman reduced the death toll to 76 but the military stuck to its figure of 77 dead. There was no immediate way to rectify the discrepancy.
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. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Civil defense officials at the snowy crash site said the plane broke into three parts and women and children were among the dead. Military transports in Algeria routinely carry not only soldiers but military families and sometimes even other civilians if space is available.
Commander Farid Nechad, who was coordinating recovery efforts, told the AP that 55 bodies had been recovered so far but conditions at the crash site were difficult.
The presidency announced a three-day period of mourning, calling the soldiers who had died "martyrs for the country."
Lockheed Martin's hulking C-130 Hercules transport, born out of the experiences of the 1950-53 Korean War, has been used by air forces all over the world to help fight wars or save lives in humanitarian situations.
Lockheed Martin confirmed that it sold C-130s to Algeria from 1981 to 1990 and said if Algerian authorities asked, the company would work with them to investigate Tuesday's crash. It did not release specific information on the age of the plane.
In 2003, 10 people died when an Algerian Air Force C-130 crashed after an engine caught fire shortly after it took off from an air base near Boufarik, according to the Aviation Safety Network's database.
The worst plane crash in Algerian history occurred in 2003, when 102 people were killed after a civilian airliner crashed at the end of the runway in Tamanrasset. There was also a single survivor in that crash.
Sole survivors of large plane crashes are extremely rare, said Ky Dickens of Chicago, director and co-producer of a documentary on such survivors. Dickens identified 15 sole survivors around the world, limiting her search to commercial planes carrying more than 40 people.
Many sole survivors are either children or a member of the flight crew — a flight attendant or pilot, Dickens said.
Schemm reported from Rabat. Joshua Freed in Minneapolis, Joan Lowy in Washington and Karim Kebir in Algiers, Algeria, also contributed.