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Spain’s leader praises men who helped plane crash survivors

Emergency services personnel work in the area after a plane crash near Seville airport, in Spain, Saturday, May 9, 2015. A military transport plane crashed near southwestern Seville airport Saturday, killing its crew, Spain's prime minister said. It is unclear if any others were injured. Mariano Rajoy said up to 10 crew members were aboard the brand new Airbus A400M aircraft that was undergoing flight trials at the airport. (AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti)

MADRID (AP) — Spanish authorities on Sunday praised the bravery of farmworkers who helped pull two survivors away from the burning wreckage of an Airbus A400M military transport plane that had crashed near Seville airport.

The plane, which was undergoing flight tests, destroyed a high-tension electricity pylon as it smashed into a field Saturday, killing four people on board. Airbus spokesman Kieran Daly said it had been carrying six crew: two pilots, three flight test engineers and a technician.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy posted a photograph of himself on Twitter talking to a farmer who had helped save the injured crewmen, calling him “a hero for us all.”

Spanish state television TVE and regional newspaper Diario de Sevilla on Sunday featured interviews with Francisco Miranda Escudero, who described how he and three other men had seen two people emerge from the broken fuselage and jump four to five meters (13-16 feet) to the ground.

“The flames were horrifying and the continuous explosions tremendous,” Miranda Escudero said as he explained how he and Manuel Iglesias — the man in Rajoy’s photograph — had pulled the injured away from the explosions.

He said the two owners of the field also ran over to help drag the men to safety.

The A400M was developed by Airbus to replace aging Hercules transport planes. The machine that crashed had been due for delivery to Turkey in June.

Britain, Germany and Turkey temporarily grounded their A400M planes after the crash pending investigations but France’s air force spokesman Colonel Jean-Pascal Breton said “we don’t have any reasons to ground the fleet at this stage.”

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian later told reporters that the A400M aircraft would only be authorized for use in the most urgent operations.

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Associated Press writer Thomas Adamson in Paris contributed to this story.

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