Bishkek: Rescuers on Saturday recovered the bodies of two US pilots whose refuelling plane crashed in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan shortly after taking off from a base that serves as a hub for military operations in Afghanistan, the emergency situations ministry said.
The KC-135 Stratotanker -- believed to be carrying dozens of tonnes of fuel -- crashed and burst into flames around 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of the capital Bishkek on Friday, according to US and local officials.
"The bodies of two pilots were found this morning at 7 am (0100 GMT) near the site of the crash. The search operation is continuing, the body of the third crew member has not yet been found," a spokesman for the Kyrgyzstan emergency situations ministry said.
The two bodies have been taken to the aircraft's US base, the Manas transit centre, rescue officials said.
Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov told journalists that "the American side is establishing the identity of the dead. Staff from the Manas transit centre are at the scene. They will also investigate the cause of the air incident."
Around 50 rescuers were still searching for the third crew member, Boronov said.
The rescue operation resumed in the early morning after being called off during the night, as little hope remained of finding the crew alive after the plane broke up and burst into flames soon after taking off from the US base at Bishkek international airport.
The Manas transit centre is key to the US campaign in Afghanistan, used to ferry troops into the country, refuel warplanes and evacuate wounded soldiers.