Tue, Oct 03, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Brazilian officials say no survivors in Gol jetliner crash


There were no survivors among the 155 people aboard the Brazilian jetliner that collided with a smaller plane and crashed in the Amazon rain forest in the nation's worst air disaster, authorities said.

Aviation officials confirmed late on Sunday that the Boeing 737-800 and an executive jet clipped each other in midair on Friday, causing Gol airlines flight 1907 to crash in jungle so dense that crews had to cut down trees to clear a space for rescue helicopters to land. The smaller plane -- carrying Americans -- landed safely at a nearby air force base.

Denise Abreu, director of Brazil's Civil Aviation Agency, told the government news service Agencia Brasil that after analyzing the flight data recorder of the executive jet, "what we can affirm is that there was a collision."

No other details were immediately released, and authorities had not yet located recorders from the Gol plane, she said.

The Brazilian air force said in a statement that rescue workers had combed through the wreckage and found no signs that anyone could have survived the crash. Workers had recovered two bodies by Sunday night and airlifted them out by helicopter, the statement said.

Gol airlines, which operated the flight, confirmed there were no survivors in its own release.

The death toll surpassed that of Brazil's previous worst air disaster: the 1982 crash of a Boeing 727 operated by the now-defunct Vasp airline in the northeastern city of Fortaleza that killed 137 people.

Globo news agency said on Sunday that police questioned the seven passengers and crew aboard the executive jet, which had been headed to the US. The passengers, all Americans, included Joe Sharkey, a journalist for the New York Times.

The seven said they felt a bump, the plane shook and the pilot took manual control for the landing, Globo reported.

The New York Times reported that Sharkey sent an e-mail to his wife saying: "Neither of the pilots can understand how a 737 could have hit us without them seeing it."

But National Civil Aviation Agency general director Milton Zuanazzi said that at airspeeds of hundreds of kilometers per hour, that was possible.

"They said they didn't see anything. But this is absolutely normal ... In these conditions, you only a see a shadow and a noise," Zuanazzi said.

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