August 16, 2005

Airliner with 152 people crashes in Venezuela

By Patrick Markey

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - A West Caribbean Airways
airliner traveling from Panama with 152 passengers and crew
crashed on Tuesday in a mountainous region near Venezuela's
border with Colombia after suffering engine failure, Venezuelan
authorities said.

"We believe it is going to be difficult for there to be
survivors," Interior Minister Jesse Chacon said.

Venezuelan troops were searching for survivors from the
Colombian airline's MD-80 aircraft that was en route to the
French Caribbean island territory of Martinique when it went
down, officials said.

Chacon said the aircraft had changed route to request a
landing at Chinita Airport in the western Venezuelan city of
Maracaibo, but crashed in the Sierra de Perija mountains near
the small town of Machiques.

Rescue officials said their efforts were hampered by heavy
cloud and rainfall in the area.

"When it was flying over Venezuelan airspace, they had
problems with one engine and then with another engine, and at
that moment it went down," Chacon said.

Venezuelan air rescue service official Delfin Garcia said
the airliner carried 152 passengers and crew.