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No Survivors in Jet Crash in Colombia

January 30, 2002|From Times Wire Services

CUMBAL, Colombia — Searchers found the wreckage of an Ecuadorean jetliner in Colombia's Andes mountains Tuesday and said all 92 people on board had been killed in Monday's crash.

Colombian troops discovered the wreckage of TAME airlines Flight 120 strewn on the slopes of the Cumbal volcano near the Ecuadorean border, but they found no survivors.

"The plane is destroyed. There are no survivors," said Alvaro Bucheli, the mayor of Cumbal.

Colombian air force Gen. Hector Velasco said the plane exploded on impact.

A large chunk of rock broke loose from the volcano and fell on the plane, which hit the mountain about 1,000 feet below the summit, Velasco said.

The Boeing 727-100 lost radio contact Monday as it circled over Ipiales, Colombia, to maneuver around the snowcapped mountains while on its way to the Ecuadorean border town of Tulcan.

The airline said there were 83 passengers, seven of them children, and nine crew members aboard.

At least 43 passengers were believed to be Colombians flying to Cali, Colombia, the final stop on the plane's itinerary, said Martin Gonzales, a spokesman for Colombia's civil aviation authority.

The passengers also included two Spaniards, two Italians, one French citizen, one German, one Mexican and one Cuban, said a TAME spokeswoman in Ecuador.

Gen. Cesar Naranjo, head of the Directorate of Civil Aviation in Ecuador, said searchers were looking for the flight data recorder, which might offer clues to the cause of the crash.

In Cali, relatives of passengers waited desperately for news.

"We assume that because of the bad weather, [the pilot] momentarily lost visibility, tried to find the airport, but ran into the mountain," Velasco said.

The crash was the deadliest airline accident in Colombia since an American Airlines jet slammed into the mountains near Cali in December 1995, killing 159 people. Four people survived that crash.

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