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Airline crash in Venezuela kills 160
Updated: 2005-08-17 09:08

A Colombian charter jet carrying tourists from Panama to Martinique crashed in Venezuela on Tuesday after its engines failed, killing all 160 aboard in one of the country's worst air disasters, the Reuters reported.

Rescue workers search for the bodies of passengers who died in a West Caribbean Airways passenger plane that crashed with 160 people on board in the Sierra de Perija area near Machiques in western Venezuela, Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2005.[Reuters]

The West Caribbean airways MD-82 aircraft was en route to the French Caribbean island when it reported engine trouble and diverted to an airport in Venezuela. It crashed at a cattle farm near Venezuela's border with Colombia, authorities said.

"Unfortunately, there were no survivors from this accident," Col. Francisco Paz, head of Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute, told local television.

Most of the passengers were local government officials in Martinique who had been on holiday with their families, an official at the Fort-de-France airport in Martinique said. He said the 152 passengers included one baby and four children.

French television broadcast images of victims' relatives crying and shouting as an official read out the names of the plane's passengers at the airport in Martinique.

"There are children who have lost both their mother and their father," said Andre Charpentier, the mayor of Basse-Pointe, a small community of 4,000 inhabitants in the north of Martinique.

The Fort-de-France airport official said the plane had been chartered by the Globe Trotters travel agency in Martinique.

In Seattle, Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said the company was dispatching a team of air safety investigators to help search for the cause of the crash.

Boeing took over McDonnell Douglas, maker of the MD-82, in 1997.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon said the aircraft had changed its route to try to land in the western Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, but lost altitude and crashed in the remote Sierra de Perija region near the border with Colombia.

"When it was flying over Venezuelan airspace, they had problems with one engine and then with another engine, and at that moment it went down," Chacon said.
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