The Hercules C-130 transporter went down Tuesday in the city of Medan shortly after taking off from a nearby airbase, exploding in a fireball and causing widespread destruction.

Air Vice Marshal Agus Dwi Putranto, an Air Force Operations Commander, told reporters initial findings indicated the 51-year-old plane had failed to gain enough speed after one of its four engines malfunctioned. "There's a likelihood that a propeller had stalled. Going at a slow speed, the plane swerved to the right and hit an antenna tower," he said.

He said the pilot had asked to turn back to base shortly after take-off, adding, "It means there was a problem." Witnesses have cited the plane was tilting and giving off black smoke just before it crashed into a massage parlour and hotel in a newly-built residential area. However Putranto denied the plane was overloaded after the air force repeatedly revised up the number of people on the flight, sparking accusations paying civilians were on board, in violation of military rules.

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