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Little Hope of Survivors in Jet Crash in Amazon Jungle

October 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil — Military helicopters lowered a rescue team by rope Saturday into the remote Amazon jungle site where a Gol Airlines jet slammed into the ground, but authorities held out little hope of finding survivors among the 155 people on board.

The team began clearing dense vegetation near the wreckage site so a helicopter could land.

"There's little indication of survivors, but we won't rule out the possibility," Brazilian air force Brig. Gen. Antonio Gomes Leite Filho said in a news conference Saturday evening. "We haven't fully explored the crash scene; it's a very complicated area."

Officials suspended the search after sundown Saturday, citing difficulty in accessing the location in the dark. They planned to resume the search at daybreak. Filho said search-andrescue operations would continue until authorities were sure there were no survivors.

The president of Brazil's airport authority, Jose Carlos Pereira, said that before Flight 1907 crashed, the Boeing 737-800 jet and a private plane made contact in flight.

He said the Gol flight from the jungle city of Manaus en route to Brasilia and then to Rio de Janeiro struck the ground at more than 300 mph.

"At that speed, it is highly unlikely any survivors will be found," Pereira said.

Nobody on the smaller plane was injured.

Air force helicopter pilots hovering over the crash site saw no signs of an intact fuselage, and the debris appeared to cover only a small area.

If no survivors are found, it will be the deadliest air accident in Brazil's history.

In 1982, a Boeing 727 operated by Brazil's now-defunct VASP airline crashed en route to the city of Fortaleza, killing 137 people.

Pereira said the jetliner with 149 passengers and six crew members may have either collided with the Brazilian-made Legacy executive jet or the two aircraft may have grazed each other.

"There was some kind of contact between the two aircraft and it is highly probable that this was the cause," he said. "But we will only be absolutely certain after a full investigation.

"The main question the investigation must address is how can this happen with two ultramodern aircraft with collision-preventing equipment."

The air force said the crash investigation could last several months.

The smaller plane, which carries up to 16 passengers, was making its inaugural flight to the United States, where it had been purchased by an American company, said its manufacturer, Embraer. It made an emergency landing, but no one on board was hurt, said Jose Leonardo Mota, a spokesman for Brazil's airport authority.

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