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160 believed killed in Venezuela air crash
(China Daily/AFP)
Updated: 2005-08-17 05:50

CARACAS: A passenger plane crashed in western Venezuela with at least 160 people on board early yesterday, all are believed killed.

160 believed killed in Venezuela air crash
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 plane was headed from Panama to Martinique when its pilot reported trouble with both engines to the Caracas air control tower just after 3 am (0700 GMT), said Francisco Paz, president of the Venezuelan National Aviation Institute.

Airport authorities lost radio contact with the plane roughly 10 minutes later in the area of Machiques, 650 kilometres west of Caracas in the western border state of Zulia, he said. "Residents in the area said they heard an explosion," Paz said.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon said that, based on reports from military helicopters and planes flying over the area, "it's very unlikely there could be survivors."

The plane was believed to have gone down between two farms in the remote area.

The plane had been chartered for tourists, Paz said.

Colombia's RCN radio reported that a brief statement from the airline said eight crew members were also aboard.

Colonel Carlos Eduardo Montealegre, acting director of Colombia's civil aviation regulator Aerocivil, told RCN that six crew members were aboard and that all were Colombian. Neither Montealegre nor the airline's statement gave the nationalities of the passengers, RCN said.

However, Venezuela's civil protection director, German Bracho, said in Caracas that most of the passengers were French nationals.

The airline's statement said the crash occurred 30 kilometres from Venezuela's border with Colombia, RCN reported. It said the aeroplane was an MD82, made by McDonnell Douglas.

France's civil aviation authority confirmed that all of the plane's passengers had died.

All the passengers are from Martinique and they are all dead, a spokeswoman for the DGAC civil aviation authority said.

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