A U.K. official on Saturday confirmed that members of the bin Laden family had been killed in a plane crash in southern England on Friday, but would not specify further. The family members were among the four victims who perished when a private jet smashed into the parking lot of the Blackbushe Airport near Hampshire and Surrey.
Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the U.K., indicated that the embassy would be investigating the incident and that it hoped to bring the case to a close quickly, in order to give family members time to prepare the burials.
"The embassy will follow up on the incident and its circumstances with the concerned British authorities and work on speeding up the handover of the bodies of the victims to the kingdom for prayer and burial," the ambassador said in a statement on Saturday. He added that the embassy had expressed "condolences to the family and relatives of Mohammed bin Laden ... for the great loss they [had] suffered" in the crash.
According to officials, the plane, an Embraer Phenom 300, had been traveling from Milan's Malpensa Airport when it crashed into an overflow car auction parking lot off of the airfield. Witnesses described seeing a series of explosions and a "ball of flames" as the plane hit the ground.
By mid-afternoon local time on Saturday, Hampshire police had confirmed the deaths, indicating that no bystanders had been injured.
"We can confirm that there were four people on board, including the pilot," said Acting Chief Inspector Olga Venner, in a statement to the press. "Sadly there were no survivors." She noted that anyone in the vicinity of the crash that had photos, video, or other information to pass along should report it to police.
One witness, who was on the roof of his home repairing his chimney at the time of the crash, recalled seeing the initial moments of the accident and hearing "cars exploding."
"I was on the roof and I heard the jet and thought I would watch it land," the man, who did not wish to be named, told BBC reporters. "I saw it going past, then it was about 20 feet off the ground and I thought, it's not got enough runway to land here."
The wealthy bin Laden family, which disowned al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in 1994 for his ties with Islamic extremism, has suffered similarly tragic losses in the past. In September 1967, family head Mohammed bin Laden (founder of the multinational construction conglomerate, the Binladen Group) was killed when his private company plane crashed upon landing at an airport in southwestern Saudi Arabia.
In 1988, son Salem was also killed while traveling in San Antonio, Texas when his ultralight aircraft struck a power line, causing the plane to crash.
Although the victims of Friday's crash in southern England have not been officially named, a friend of the family told NBC News that they believed the victims included Osama's stepmother, Rajaa Hashim, Osama's half-sister, Sana bin Laden, and Sana's husband.
Images: Getty Images