KC-135 Tanker Plane Crashes In Kyrgyzstan, Crew's Fate Unknown

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MOSCOW (CNN) -- An American military refueling plane took off and crashed in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, Kyrgyz and U.S. officials said.

"The status of the three crew members is unknown," the U.S. 376th Air Expeditionary Wing said in a news release.

The plane was a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to the expeditionary wing's Public Affairs Transit Center at Manas, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The crew and aircraft are assigned to the transit center.

The Manas transit center is a U.S. airbase that serves as a supply hub for American forces in Afghanistan. It is located at the Manas airport.

The plane crashed in a mountainous area between Chorgolu and Cholok-Aryk -- two villages in the Chuysky region of northern Kyrgyzstan, and a fire crew and three ambulances responded, Elmira Shyrypova, at the Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry press office.

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran issued the following statement on the crash: “I was saddened to hear today that a McConnell KC-135 tanker crashed in Kyrgyzstan,” Sen. Moran said. “The three crew members on board were working to protect our country and keep our freedom within reach, and we should all be grateful for their service. I ask that all Kansans join me in keeping the family and friends of these crew members in their thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.”

The transit center said investigators are determining the cause of the crash and emergency responders were on the scene Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev held an emergency meeting in connection with the crash, state media reported.

Sharshenaliev said debris from the crash was scattered over an area of about a kilometer radius. He said witnesses calling in on a hotline said they saw a parachute when the plane was falling. Others said they saw an explosion and the plane was broken in half.