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4 killed in Honduras in jet crash at airport

May 31, 2008|From the Associated Press

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS — A Miami-bound jetliner Friday overshot a runway, raced onto a busy street and slammed into an embankment in the Honduran capital, killing the pilot, two passengers and a motorist.

Eighty-one people were injured, including the former head of Honduras' armed forces, Gen. Daniel Lopez Carballo.

The Grupo TACA Airbus 320 was trying to land with 124 people on board when it overshot the runway. Its nose smashed into the embankment and its fuselage buckled and broke in places, trapping the pilot and copilot inside.

Rescuers had to pry open part of the wreckage to get them out, said Cesar Villalta, director of Honduras' military hospital.

The plane carried passengers mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica. It was scheduled to stop briefly in Tegucigalpa and in San Pedro Sula before heading to Miami.

It was unclear what caused the crash, but the runway was wet with rain from Tropical Storm Alma.

There have been calls for years to replace aging Toncontin International Airport, whose short runway, outdated navigation equipment and neighboring hills make it one of the world's more dangerous international airports.

The airport was built on the southern edge of hilly Tegucigalpa in 1948 with a runway less than 5,300 feet.

The altitude of about 3,300 feet forces pilots to use more runway on landings and takeoffs. And because of the hills, pilots have to make an unusually steep approach.

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