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A.F. OFFICIAL, 7 OTHERS DIE IN ALABAMA CRASH

An assistant secretary of the Air Force and seven other people were killed when their jet exploded and crashed in a patch of woods near a residential neighborhood.

The Air Force C-21 plane, the military version of a Learjet, experienced an "in-flight emergency" Monday that forced the crew to try to land at the Alexander City Airport, the Air Force said.Two witnesses heard explosions while the plane was still in the air. One said the pilot struggled to regain altitude as the jet skimmed the trees.

"I could see the pilot fighting the plane," said Jimmy Keel, who watched from the porch of his bait and tackle shop. "He was in trouble. He fought it up, it went left, then right, then it exploded."

All six passengers and both crew members were killed when the jet went down about 6:30 p.m.