WATCH: Shocking footage purporting to show moment plane crashes killing five people at Malta Airport
Three French Defence Ministry officials and two private contractors died when their plane crashed shortly after taking off from a Malta airport.
They were due to head on a surveillance mission over the Mediterranean when the crash took place at Luqa airport in the island nation, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
The ministry will conduct an investigation on what caused the crash on Monday morning, Le Drian said in a statement.
Sources said the plane crashed near the runway soon after take-off and subsequently burst into flames.
Dash cam footage purporting to show the moment of the crash has appeared on Facebook this morning.
One eyewitness told Times of Malta they saw the plane take-off and rise before it suddenly tipped onto its right side "and went straight down into the ground."
Airport officials initially said the twin-prop Metroliner plane was believed to be carrying Frontex officials. Frontex is the EU's border management agency. The organisation later put out a statement saying it had not deployed the plane.
"The plane which crashed in Malta was not deployed by Frontex," Krzysztof Borowski from Frontex said.
The agency tweeted: "No Frontex staff was involved in the plane crash in Malta."
Actor Edward De Gaetano was on his way home back to London when he witnessed the aftermath of the crash.
"We were about to take off; moments before we did from our windows we could see a massive explosion – at first we had no idea what caused it," he said.
"We quickly realised an aircraft carrier had crash-landed. That is when everyone got a bit anxious."
He added: "Then there was a second explosion and I thought 'Oh my God, this is not just a fire'. We are all a bit stunned."
Mr De Gaetano said it was "definitely not a military plane" which had crashed – with flames from the explosion "engulfing" a nearby tree.
Before the crash he said everything seemed "very, very normal".
"I just hope they find out what caused the crash and if there are any survivors they are OK," he told the Press Association.