Fri, Feb 29, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Eleven die in Chile plane crash


Five people in a busy sportsground in the Chilean capital Santiago died on Wednesday when a police training aircraft fell out of the sky and exploded in a fireball, killing its six occupants, officials said.

Three women and a four-year-old girl were incinerated in the explosion of the single propeller Cessna plane after it crashed into the field in the district of Penalolen, in the east of the city, moments after taking off nearby, the civil aviation agency said.

Authorities said the small plane had plunged without warning into the sportsground, which was filled with dozens of children and their mothers participating in a new municipal aerobics class.

Police said the bodies of two of the women who were killed instantly were only discovered when the charred debris of the Cessna was lifted off them.

A fifth victim, a 52-year-old woman, died in hospital while being treated for serious burns to 85 percent of her body.

The six people in the plane -- two police officers and four teenage aircraft mechanic students -- were killed immediately on impact.

Hospital sources said another 25 people on the ground were hurt in the accident: one critically, four seriously and 20 with lesser injuries.

The plane had taken off from a neighboring aerodrome on a training flight piloted by a police captain and a lieutenant. The four students with them were aged 17 to 19.

"In the last stretch, the plane dipped to one side, caught the fence and dropped. There were women and children doing gymnastics. When it fell I heard an explosion and saw trees go up in flames," one witness, Ricardo Valdebenito, told local media.

A police captain, Jorge Rojas, said he believed a mechanical problem caused the crash.

"Everything points to a mechanical failure, which made it lose power," he said.

Officers said the pilot had tried to make an emergency landing and pull the aircraft's nose away from a residential area.

The aerodrome, used by many small aircraft, is located in a densely populated area in Santiago.

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