FOUR people were seriously injured when a South African Airlink plane crashed on school grounds at Merebank near Durban International Airportyesterday morning.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said when paramedics arrived at the scene they were faced with a horrific spectacle.

The plane, which crashed through a concrete fence, broke up on hitting the ground. The craft's mangled wreck was spread over several metres.

"The pilot, co-pilot and an air hostess were trapped in the mangled wreck of the plane.

"Firemen and paramedics worked for several hours to free the victims from the wreckage. All had sustained critical injuries," Botha said.

He said the victims were stabilised on the scene and then airlifted to St Augustine and Inkosi Albert Luthuli hospitals in Durban.

A Durban Solid Waste worker who was busy on the pavement was also injured when the plane struck him.

"He also sustained critical injuries and was taken to hospital for treatment."

Airlink spokesperson Karin Murray confirmed the incident and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

"The aircraft, a Jetstream 41 with 29 seats, departed from Durban International Airport and shortly after take-off declared an emergency.

The crew reported engine loss and smoke from the rear of the aircraft," Murray said.

Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele has also wished the injured a speedy recovery.

"We want to wish those injured in the crash in Merebank a speedy recovery," Ndebele said.

Accident investigators from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) were dispatched to the scene and an on-site investigation will be carried out.

A report will be prepared to determine the probable cause of the crash.

Provincial MEC for transport, community safety and liaison Willies Mchunu has called on aviation authorities to speed up the probe into the cause of the crash.

"Our sympathies go to all the injured, and we are pleased that there are no fatalities," he said.