August 24, 2005

Peru searches for bodies after jet crash kills 41

By Robin Emmott

LIMA, Peru (Reuters) - Rescue workers searched a lake in a
thick swamp on Wednesday for the remaining bodies from a
Peruvian jet that crashed in Peru's northern jungle, killing 41
people, including at least two foreign tourists.

Police and firefighters knee-deep in water pulled five
bodies from the Boeing 737-200 TANS airliner as the search
resumed at daybreak. They used machetes to hack through heavy
foliage in the crash area.

"They aren't whole bodies, but remains, all charred by
fire," said Marco Ochoa, a state attorney leading the
investigation at the crash site in Pucallpa, 490 miles
northeast of Lima.

The state-owned airliner carrying 100 people came down in
swamps 1.8 miles from the Pucallpa airport as it tried to land
on Tuesday in heavy storms. Police said the plane broke in two
on impact and the front half caught on fire.

TANS executive Jorge Belevan said two more survivors had
been accounted for, bringing to 59 the number of people who got
off the plane alive. He added 16 of the 41 bodies had been

RPP radio said all 41 bodies had been found, but police put
the figure at 36.

Images of the accident showed the forested marshland strewn
with blue airline seats, a man's hand sticking out of the mud
and a plane wing caught in a tree.

"The survivors were seated in the back of the plane," said
police officer Johnny Luna in Pucallpa. "They managed to get
out and wade through the swamp to the nearest road," he added.

The flight had been due to fly on to the Peruvian Amazon
city of Iquitos, a popular tourist destination.

It was the third major accident involving a passenger
airplane in less than two weeks, after crashes in Greece and
Venezuela. In January 2003, a TANS aircraft slammed into a hill
in Peru's northern jungle, killing all 46 people on board.

TANS said 11 U.S. citizens were on board, along with four
Italians, a Colombian, an Australian and a Spanish woman.

Police and diplomats confirmed the deaths of a Colombian
woman and the Spanish woman.

Authorities said an Italian and an American also died in
the crash, but those countries' embassies said they could not
confirm the deaths. The Australian consul in Lima said an
Australian woman was missing.

Six U.S. citizens, all from the same family in New York,
survived, a family member in Peru told Reuters.


Relatives said some of the cabin crew threw themselves out
the emergency doors the moment the plane hit the ground and
survivors spoke of fires breaking out as they landed.

Experts said the harsh weather at the time of landing meant
there was little the two pilots, who local media said died,
could have done to avoid the accident.

About 10 minutes before landing, the plane was caught in a
fierce storm that was unusual for August, survivors said.

TANS, founded in the 1960s by the Peruvian air force to
help serve remote jungle communities, became a commercial
airline in 1998 and has about 30 percent of the local market.

It said its flights continued as normal on Wednesday.

Peru's deadliest air crash was on February 29, 1996, when a
Boeing 737 owned by the defunct Faucett Airline crashed in the
southern Andes killing all 123 people on board.