An aircraft that was heading towards Libya’s coast to monitor migrant trafficking routes for the French government crashed soon after take-off from Malta’s airport on Monday, killing all five crew members that were on board, authorities said.
A video posted on Facebook of the horrifying moment showed the twin-prop Fairchild Metroliner banking to the right and slamming into the ground in a huge fireball soon after lifting off at 7:20 a.m. (0520 GMT).
According to the French defense ministry, the victims – three defense ministry officials and two private contractors – had been conducting a surveillance operation.
Malta’s government said the flight was part of a French Customs operation tracing routes of illicit trafficking, both of humans and drugs, leaving Libya’s lawless coasts.
Libya has been the main launch point the numerous perilous sea journeys for migrants seeking to reach Europe.
Malta’s International Airport is used for surveillance flights to Libya due to its proximity. The government said the French surveillance operation has been active for about five months.