YATELEY, United Kingdom (AFP) - Members of Osama bin Laden’s family were among four people killed when a private jet crashed into a car auction lot in Britain, Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London and British police said Saturday.
While the embassy did not identify the dead, a source close to the family speaking to AFP and Saudi media indicated that they were bin Laden’s stepmother Raja Hashim, his sister Sanaa, the sister’s husband Zuhair Hashem, and a Jordanian pilot.
The Saudi-registered Phenom 300 jet came down on Friday as it tried to land at Blackbushe Airport, a small airfield in Hampshire, southern England.
The police have launched an investigation into what caused the crash alongside the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
The Saudi ambassador “offered his condolences to the sons of the late Mohammed bin Laden and their relations for the grave incident of the crash of the plane carrying members of the family,” a statement posted on the embassy’s Twitter account said.
The embassy also said it would work with British authorities to investigate the incident and repatriate the bodies for burial in Saudi Arabia.
A police spokesman confirmed that three passengers and the pilot had died.
“We do believe three of the deceased to be the mother, sister and brother-in-law of the owner of the aircraft, all of whom are from the Bin Laden family, but formal post-mortem examinations are ongoing,” the spokesman said.
“They were Saudi Arabian nationals and visiting the UK on vacation,” he said.
‘BIG COLUMN OF SMOKE'
Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda militant network and the man behind the 911 attacks, was killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.
His father Mohammed, a construction magnate with 54 children, died in a plane crash in Saudi Arabia in 1967.
Footage of the aftermath of Friday’s crash showed plumes of black smoke rising into the sky and several cars on fire in the outdoor area of British Car Auctions, where vehicles were parked awaiting sale.
On its website, Blackbushe Airport says it “provides some of the finest executive and private aviation facilities anywhere in the UK”.
Robert Belcher, a local plane enthusiast who witnessed the aftermath of the crash, said the jet had been a “regular visitor” to the airport in recent months.
“I was passing the airport on my way home and there was a big column of smoke in the air,” he said.
“I could see the plume of smoke waving from about five miles (eight kilometres) away and was hoping it was just a car fire rather than an aircraft accident.”
Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation said in a statement Friday that the plane was registered in the Gulf state and that it would work with British investigators to determine the cause of the crash.
British media reported that the aircraft had taken off from Milan’s Malpensa airport in Italy.