At least 14 people were killed Monday when a plane owned by Venezuela’s state-run airline Conviasa with 51 people on board slammed into the yard of a steel mill, officials said. Four on board were reported missing.
The ATR-42 plane was on a domestic flight between the Caribbean island of Margarita and the southern industrial city Puerto Ordaz when it came down near the gates of the vast Sidor mill on the banks of the Orinoco River.
Workers and firemen from the plant ran to the crash site and pulled passengers from the twisted and charred wreckage, one steel worker told state television.
“So far 33 people are being treated in nearby clinics and hospitals. Sadly we have 14 bodies to identify and we have not found four people,” local governor Francisco Rangel Gomez said.
Images showed the fuselage broken into at least two pieces in a yard stacked with junk and empty barrels. The wings lay several meters away.
A nearby Puerto Ordaz hospital received injured people and bodies from the crash site. Hospital director Yanitza Rodriguez said many of the injuries were serious.
An official at the National Civil Aviation Institute said the pilot had radioed in a mayday signal seconds before the plane crashed.
“We presume (the accident) was caused by a failure in the airplane’s controls,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.
ATR, which makes 40-70 seat twin-engine turboprops, is a joint venture between Airbus parent company EADS and Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica.
President Hugo Chavez created Conviasa in 2004 to replace Venezuela’s bankrupted flagship airline Viasa.
Officials said the crash did not cause any injuries to steel workers or damage to Sidor’s installations.
“The plane fell on a waste area where they put barrels of unused steel materials,” Governor Gomez said.
The last major plane crash in Venezuela in 2008, involved another ATR-42 belonging to a private local airline Santa Barbara. It crashed into mountains with 46 passengers on board. There were no survivors. The Conviasa plane was flying flight number 2350 and carried the registration YV1010.
(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Frank Jack Daniel, Diego Ore, Marianna Parraga in Caracas: Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Jerry Norton)
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