( AP ) - A Polish military plane carrying 20 passengers and crew crashed in northwestern Poland, killing all aboard including a brigadier general, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Thursday.
The plane was approaching an air base at Miroslawiec shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday when it went down in a forest in northwestern Poland. Officials initially said seven were confirmed dead.
"Soldiers, husbands, and fathers have died, and that is the most tragic result of this catastrophe," said Tusk. He called it a "huge loss for the Polish air force."
The aircraft, a Spanish-built CASA C-295M military transport plane, was about 1 mile from the airstrip when it clipped trees on its approach, crashed into a wooded area and burst into flames, Ziolkowski said.
"We don't know what the cause of the crash was right now," Ziolkowski said.
He added that the passengers were officers attending an annual one-day conference in Warsaw on air safety.
The plane had more people on board when it took off from Warsaw, but had already landed at three other military airports. It had two more planned stops in Swidwin and Krakow.
Polish media were describing the accident as one of the worst military disasters in more than three decades. President Lech Kaczynski was cutting short a visit to Croatia to return to Poland on Thursday, a spokesman said.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Defense Minister Bogdan Klich were rushing to the crash site late Wednesday.
Tusk's spokeswoman, Agnieszka Liszka, called the accident a "shocking tragedy" and said the premier extended his sympathy to the families.
A Polish military expert, Grzegorz Holdanowicz, said it was the first air disaster involving a CASA C-295M, a plane he called one of the safest in the Polish air force. The Polish military also uses the plane type in Iraq and in Afghanistan, where it supports the U.S.-led operations.
The pilots of Wednesday's flight were from a transport squadron based in Balice, near Krakow, that had flown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the squadron spokesman, Cpt. Piotr Jaszczuk said.