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Witnesses Tell of Icy Deaths in Plane Crash

February 22, 1991|From Times Wire Services

SANTIAGO, Chile — Passengers clung to the wings and tail of a chartered jetliner in icy waters after it skidded off the runway of a remote Chilean island, killing 20 people, authorities and witnesses said Thursday.

The small four-engine jetliner of the Chilean airline LAN was trying to land Wednesday at Puerto Williams on Navarino island when it overshot the runway and crashed into the Beagle Channel, 1,500 miles south of Santiago, airline officials said.

The plane sank within minutes, witnesses said, and some passengers froze to death after they jumped into the icy waters of the channel, which separates Chile from Argentina near Cape Horn.

The 65 passengers, mostly Americans, were on their way to an Antarctic cruise organized by a Seattle-based tour company. Seven crew members also were on the plane, and all survived.

LAN issued a list Thursday of those who died, and it included 17 Americans, a Canadian, an Italian and an Israeli.

The U.S. victims were listed as Hudegared Auguston, 56, and Elaine Ash, 74, of Los Angeles; William Bennett, 71, of Ventura, Calif.; Ann Crammond, 65, and Dorothy Day, 65, of Atlanta; Thomas Fath, 51, of Cincinnati, and Raymond Johnson, 72, and May Johnson, 71, of Chicago.

Also, Pearl Kamber, 73, of Silver Springs, Md.; Gavin Lally, 78, of Dallas; Carol Sargent, 63, and Robert Sargent, 63, of Connecticut; John Smith, 77, of Birmingham, Ala.; Elizabeth Stone, 48, of Georgia; Lynn Vanaken, 58, of Miami, and John Wilson, 76, and Kathleen Wilson, 69, of New Orleans.

An initial inquiry provided no clues to the cause of the crash of the plane, a British Aerospace 146, said Chilean air force Cmdr. Hernan Baharhona, who is heading the investigation.

"After 10 minutes, all you could see was the tail," wrote Maria Cristina del Pino, a correspondent for the Santiago daily El Mercurio. "The aircraft started to sink while the passengers emerged, many of them clinging to the wings, awaiting to be rescued."

Another reporter said passengers froze to death when they tried to swim 150 yards to a beach.

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