MANILA: A medical evacuation plane exploded during take-off in the Philippine capital on Sunday (Mar 29), killing all eight passengers and crew, including an American and a Canadian, officials said.

The Lionair plane, owned by a Philippines-registered charter service Lionair, had been bound for Haneda, Japan, but burst into flames at the end of the runway around 8.00pm, Manila’s main airport, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), said.

Indonesian carrier Lion Air issued a statement making clear that it is unrelated to Manila-based Lionair.

Video footage showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the night sky as fire crews doused the fuselage with foam.

The twin-jet West Wind 24 plane was carrying three medical personnel, three flight crew, a patient and a companion, Richard Gordon, a senator and head of the Philippine Red Cross, said on Twitter.

“Unfortunately, no passenger survived the accident,” the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said in a statement.

An investigation by the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Philippines was under way, MIAA said.

“Our fire and medic teams were already dispatched to NAIA Terminal 2 to respond to the plane crash incident involving Lion Air Flight RPC 5880,” Gordon said.

“The plane caught fire and exploded as it was taking off the NAIA runway,” he added.

The runway has been closed temporarily, affecting an arriving Korean Air flight that was diverted to Clark airport in northern Philippines, said MIAA General Manager Eddie Monreal.

The aim is to reopen the runway about two hours after midnight, he said in a press briefing.

Monreal confirmed that an American national and a Canadian citizen were among those killed, but could not provide further detail. The six others were all Filipinos, he said.

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Captain Don Mendoza, deputy director general for operations at the CAAP, confirmed Lionair is the same operator of another flight that crashed in September last year in Laguna.

“Right now, the initial step that we are looking into is … grounding the whole fleet,” said Capt Mendoza in a press conference. 

“It’s quite alarming, but we are looking into the records deeply … of this unfortunate event to happen to Lionair.

“We will have a thorough investigation into this and we will advise the operator on the actions and steps to be taken.”

He said Lionair provides both medical evacuation and chartered flights. 

Lionair, a firm based in the Philippines, is different from Lion Air, the Indonesian budget airline.

According to its website, Lionair provides chartered and medical evacuation flights. In September last year, a flight operated by Lionair crashed in Laguna, a province south of Manila.

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