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15 die as 36 survive Venezuela air crash

Cause unknown; flight originated on tourist island

By Fabiola Sanchez
Associated Press / September 14, 2010

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CARACAS — Fifteen people were killed after a plane carrying 51 people crashed yesterday in eastern Venezuela, officials said.

The French-built ATR 42 from the state airline Conviasa, on a return trip from a Caribbean tourist mecca, slammed into a lot used by the state-run steel company, leaving its smashed and partly scorched fuselage among barrels and shipping containers.

Bolivar state Governor Francisco Rangel Gomez said 36 survived the crash, which occurred about 6 miles from the airport in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz. The cause was not immediately determined.

The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, was carrying 47 passengers and four crew members, Rangel Gomez said.

Steel plant worker Oscar Crespo said he heard the thunderous noise of the impact and found the plane in flames.

“I was one of the first who got there to help,’’ Crespo told state television. “We brought some of the injured into an office to treat them. While I was taking people out, Sidor’s firefighters arrived to help us.’’

While he was helping some of the survivors from the wreckage in thick smoke, Crespo said, he heard some children among the passengers telling how they had looked out the windows and had seen they were “flying very low’’ before the crash.

Rangel Gomez said the Conviasa Flight 2350 had taken off from Margarita Island — a Caribbean island that is one of Venezuela’s top tourist destinations — and crashed shortly before reaching Puerto Ordaz.

The aircraft broke into pieces after coming down in an abandoned yard outside the gates of the factory owned by the state steel company Siderurgica del Orinoco.

Control tower workers at the airport in Ciudad Guayana, 330 miles southeast of Caracas, said the plane’s captain reported problems controlling the turboprop shortly after takeoff, Rangel Gomez said.

Venezuela’s last major aviation disaster was in February 2008, when acrash in the Andes mountains near the city of Merida killed all 46 people on board.

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