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21 Killed in Panamanian Plane Crash

July 20, 1994| From Times Wire Reports

PANAMA CITY — A commuter plane exploded in the air and crashed Tuesday in a mountainous area in northern Panama, killing all 21 people aboard, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said.

Administration director Zozimo Guardia told a news conference that several witnesses saw the Alas Chiricanas Airline plane explode around 4:30 p.m., about six miles beyond its takeoff point at the Colon airport.

"The reports received is that the aircraft is in pieces and the bodies are strewn over an area a quarter of a mile around it," Guardia said. "There are no survivors."

He said the cause of the crash is being investigated.

Guardia said the plane, a Brazilian-made Embraer, carried 18 passengers and a crew of three. It was on a routine flight from Colon, at the Atlantic entrance of the Panama Canal, to Panama City, at the Pacific entrance.

Most of the passengers were businessmen, he said.

Eyewitnesses said heavy rain and winds tossed the plane into nearby television antennas shortly after takeoff, Manuel Zambrano, regional director of the Protection System, told RPC radio.

Rescue crews have already retrieved 14 bodies from the wreckage, the National Civil Protection Service said.

It was the worst crash in Panama since June, 1992, when a plane from COPA airline crashed in mountainous Darien province, killing 47 passengers on board, most of them Colombians.

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