Jet Crashes

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In this story: 'No chance of rescue' At least 100 cars set afire Pilot reports balance problem RELATED STORIES, SITES From staff and wire reports RANCHO CORDOVA, California (CNN) - The investigation into the fiery crash of an Emery cargo jet that killed all three crew members is focused on a shift in the plane's load shortly after it took off from Sacramento, California. The DC-8 plunged into a nearby auction yard of wrecked cars, leaving a quarter-mile-long trail of burning debris. Authorities said the pilot of Emery Worldwide Flight 17 reported that the jet's cargo shifted shortly after takeoff Wednesday evening. The plane, its balance disrupted, tried to return to Mather Field for an emergency landing. Instead, it crashed in a fireball about a mile east of the airport just before 8 p.m. There were no reported injuries on the ground. 'No chance of rescue' One witness said the plane hit the ground belly first and was immediately surrounded by fire. Nobody on the ground was injured. The plane, bound for Dayton, Ohio, carried three crew members: the pilot, first captain and a flight engineer, all believed to be Emery employees, said company spokesman James Allen. The crew members, whose identities were not immediately released, were dead by the time fire crews arrived, said Capt. Dan Haverty, from the American River Fire Department in Rancho Cordova, California, a suburb of Sacramento. "There was no chance of rescue," he said. Firefighters were hampered by intense flames, which burned for several hours after the crash. Smoke was visible in the moonlit night several miles away. At least 100 cars set afire The plane's cargo included clothing, transmission fluid and a small amount of fuses -- 9 grams, or about a third of an ounce -- used to activate automobile air bags, Allen said. The crash at the Insurance Auto Auctions salvage yard set between 100 to 200 cars on fire, many with gas in their tanks, causing several explosions. Debris cut a swath about 250 yards wide and a quarter mile long. Firefighters worked into the night extinguishing scattered flames. Debris from the plane, including a 15-foot-long piece of the fuselage and a wheel assembly, was found scattered among the wrecked cars. j Dozens of vehicles were crumpled. Pilot reports balance problem The flight took off at 7:50 p.m. and the pilot immediately called back to the airfield's departure control and told them he had a severe problem with the balance of the aircraft, said Jim Whitehead, manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's regional operations center in Los Angeles. The plane hit the ground "in a ball of

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