• Kyodo

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A small plane crashed and burst into flames Wednesday shortly after taking off from Tajima Airport in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, killing the two men on board.

The men were Hiroshi Sasaki, 31, an official of the prefectural government who is believed to have been the pilot, and Michiji Koyama, 58, a municipal official, according to police. They were members of a local flying club.

The private aircraft was one of two planning to fly to an airport in Nagasaki Prefecture by way of Kitakyushu, police said.

The plane lost momentum immediately after takeoff and plunged onto the runway, exploding in flames. The other plane was waiting for permission to take off.

The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry sent two officials to the accident site to join the police investigation.

The airport closed the runway but may reopen it early Thursday afternoon.

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