Lebanese plane crash kills 135

30 December 2003
A Lebanese-owned plane crashed off the coast of Benin on 25 December killing 135 people, including 77 Lebanese nationals. The Boeing 727, which was operated by the Lebanese-owned Union des Transports Africains (UTA), crashed shortly after take off from Cotonou international airport on route to Beirut. Many of those on board were Lebanese workers returning home for the holidays. Initial investigations suggest that the plane crashed because of overloading. 'Preliminary information indicated there was an excess number of passengers and a great excess of luggage,' said Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Obeid. At least 24 of the 161 passengers survived the crash.

Despite being Lebanese owned, UTA had been denied registration in Lebanon for failing to fulfil 'technical requirements', the Lebanese press quoted Transport Minister Najib Miqati as saying.

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