The plane was transporting equipment including illuminating mortar shells and training shells to Bangladesh when it crashed near Eleftheroupoli in the northeastern Kavala region, the Serbian Minister of Defense Nebojša Stefanović said, according to Reuters. He added that all eight crew members had been killed.
According to Greek public broadcaster ERT, the aircraft was carrying “dangerous cargo.” Smoke and intense heat, as well as a white substance found near the crash site, raised concerns over possible toxicity, Marios Apostolidis, a major general in the Greek fire brigade, said.
The Antonov 12, which was operated by Ukrainian cargo airline Meridian, crashed shortly before 11 p.m. local time (4 p.m ET) Saturday, ERT reported.
It was traveling from Serbia to Bangladesh via Jordan when it crashed, Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook Sunday. The cause of the accident is believed to be engine failure.
All eight crew members were Ukrainian citizens, Nikolenko added. He said an operational headquarters was set up by the Ukrainian consulate in Thessaloniki, where Ukrainian consular officers were working at the crash site with local rescue and law enforcement teams.
The Greek Fire Service said 15 firefighters and seven appliances were at the site of the crash. A drone will be used to survey the area where the aircraft crashed to assess its safety, Apostolidis added.
Experts are also working to determine what the white substance is and what the scene’s toxicity is before proceeding with recovery operations. Authorities have yet to recover the plane’s flight recorder.