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Four killed in Air Force plane crash in Alaska

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Four crew members were killed in a U.S. Air Force cargo plane that crashed on Wednesday while practicing for an aviation show at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, the Air Force said on Thursday.

"We are confirming four dead," said Lieutenant Colonel Karen Platt, an Air Force spokeswoman.

The C-17 Globemaster crashed just after takeoff on Wednesday evening in a wooded area just northeast of the air field. A fireball and plume of smoke over the area were visible to nearby residents.

Three of the dead were members of the Alaska Air National Guard and the fourth was on active duty at Elmendorf, Anchorage television station KTUU said, quoting the Air Force.

The plane was assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf, a unit consisting of 6,000 Air Force personnel who fly fighter jets and other military aircraft.

Lieutenant General Dana Atkins told a new conference that the plane was "doing a practice demonstration profile" that it was to perform at the annual Arctic Thunder air show this weekend when it crashed.

In light of the accident, Atkins said the military was considering whether to go on with the aviation show, which also features precision-flying demonstrations by the Blue Angels and the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

The crash occurred during damp, cloudy conditions in Anchorage.

Elmendorf's worst air crash was in September 1995, when several geese were sucked into the engine of an AWACS plane just after takeoff. That plane was on a training mission as well. All 24 crew members perished.

(Editing by Jerry Norton and Vicki Allen)

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