BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WDRB) – Two crew members were killed when a UPS cargo plane from Louisville crashed in an open field near an airport in Birmingham, Alabama early Wednesday.

WSMV-TV in Nashville is reporting that one of the pilots who died was Shanda Fanning of Lynchburg, Tenn. WAFF in Huntington, Alabama says the second pilot is Cerea Beal, Jr. of Matthews, North Carolina. 

Debris covered about a half mile surrounding the approach to the airport.

Robert Sumwalt of the NTSB says its team has done "an overall initial assessment to begin planning" the next steps of the investigation.  He said the team is busy gathering evidence that could be "perishable," and will not draw conclusions or determine the cause of the crash.

He said the distance from the "initial ground impact" to the final resting point of the forward fuselage is 200 yards.  He said the tail section of the plane is still smoldering, so crews have not been able to get to the flight recorders, often referred to as the "black boxes," which are expected to provide more information about what happened to the plane.  Sumwalt said he believes the recorders will be recovered.

WDRB's Gilbert Corsey asked whether maintenance records would be examined, and Sumwalt responded that an NTSB staffer has been sent to Louisville to look at them.

UPS Louisville Public Relations Manager Mike Mangeot confirmed to WDRB News soon after the crash that UPS flight 1354, an Airbus A-300-600, was en route from Louisville to Birmingham.

Mangeot spoke to Candyce Clifft and Sterling Riggs on WDRB in the Morning, and he confirmed the crash happened short of the runway as the plane attempted to land just after 6 a.m. eastern time. Two crew members were on board. He had no details of what may have happened in the moments before the crash.  He said UPS is mobilizing a team to investigate the crash.  

UPS officials say family members seeking information should telephone 800-631-0604.

Barbara Benson, who witnessed the crash, called it "very disturbing."  She continued, "I just would like to know what really happened, you know, because those are somebody's children...It's so sad."

UPS Airlines President Mitch Nichols said in a statement, "We place the utmost value on the safety of our employees, our customers and the public. We will immediately engage with the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, and we will work exhaustively on response efforts."

He also spoke of the emotional toll such a tragedy takes:  "Yes, certainly, this is a sad morning at UPS."  Nichols said, "This incident is very unfortunate, and our thoughts and prayers are with those involved."

UPS has a total of 235 aircraft in its fleet, of which 53 are the Airbus A-300s.

The plane that crashed was delivered new in 2003 and flew 6800 flights for 11,000 hours of flight time.  The last major inspection for that aircraft was in June 2011.

The A-300 carries from 109,000-120,000 lbs. of cargo.

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