Eleven people have been killed and one injured after a small plane carrying parachutists crashed shortly after take-off in southern Poland.

The twin-engine Piper PA-31 Navajo light aircraft crashed only a few minutes after taking off from an airfield in Rudniki, near Czestochowa, and burst into flames in an orchard in the village of Topolów.

Witnesses said the plane's engines made a droning sound before it began to fall from the sky.

Barbara Minczykiewicz, a resident of the nearby village of Topolów told Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper: "It was flying very low, close to houses. It tilted to one side on its wing."

Another witness, retired police officer Robert Koziol, said some of the passengers appeared to have tried to jump out of the plane.

"There were open parachutes lying on the ground," he said. "The worst thing was that one person tried to get out of [the plane] but slid back inside.

"We tried to help them, but there was nothing we could do. Everything was on fire, even the ground."

National firefighters spokesman Pawel Fratczak said firefighters called to the site found two people dead.

Medical services confirmed that a further nine bodies were found in the wreckage.

Police spokeswoman Joanna Lazar said: "We have established that just after the crash local residents came running towards the wreckage and helped to save one of the passengers from the plane. A 40-year-old man was taken to hospital."

An investigation has been launched into the crash, which experts have described as the worst passenger plane crash in Poland in several years.

Firefighters believe that the aircraft, which was the property of a private parachuting school based in Rudniki, may have been overloaded.

In 2010, a plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of the country's most senior political and military leaders crashed in western Russia, killing everyone on board.