A regional airliner crashed in a northeastern city in Brazil on Wednesday, killing all 16 people on board, the nation’s air force said.
Witnesses said at least one of the passengers was pleading for help after the plane made a hard landing, gesturing through a window to onlookers, but the aircraft burst into flames before aid could arrive.
The crew of the twin-turboprop aircraft belonging to Noar Airlines reported problems shortly after taking off at about 7am from the city of Recife en route to the city of Natal. Investigators said the plane’s flight data and voice recorders were located, which they hoped would help answer why the plane went down.
All of the names on a list of victims released by the airline appeared to be Brazilian, though it did not list nationalities.
The air force did not indicate what the problems were or what caused the crash, but said it is investigating. Weather did not seem to be a factor as it was overcast, but not raining when the plane went down.
About five minutes after take off, the pilot tried to make an emergency landing in a vacant lot near a beach on the outskirts of the city’s center, near several apartment buildings. However, witnesses said the aircraft went down hard and burst into flames shortly afterward.
“I saw a woman in a window [of the plane] asking for help and it just exploded,” witness Erandir Rodrigues da Silva told the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. “There was nothing to be done.”
Recife Fire Chief Valdyr Oliveira told Estado radio that the fire was controlled quickly and that investigators are working at the scene for clues as to why the plane went down.
“The pilot was able to land, but the impact caused an explosion,” Oliveira said.
A video posted on the Folha newspaper’s Web site showed the aircraft in flames on the ground, black plumes of smoke rising from it, a crowd of onlookers gathered nearby. Morning traffic crawled along a highway between the vacant lot where the plane went down and a strip of beach.
The air force said the plane that crashed was a L-410, built by LET Aircraft Industries in the Czech Republic. It had a capacity for 19 passengers, according to Noar’s Web site, along with a crew of two.
According to the accident database of the US National Transportation Safety Board, which tracks incidents globally, four other accidents involving the same model of plane were reported, all in Latin America and taking place in 2000 and 2001.
Two crashes in Mexico, one in Guatemala and one in Costa Rica resulted in 31 deaths.
Noar Airlines’ Web site said it began operations in June last year and that it makes 278 flights a week. It owns a fleet of four small planes and the plane that went down was purchased new about a year ago.
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