Dozens Die In Mountain Plane Crash
Updated:14:50, Friday February 22, 2008
The wreckage of a plane carrying 46 passengers that disappeared in the Venezuelan Andes has been found, but no-one on board survived the crash, officials say.
Caracas at nightThe plane crashed just after takeoff, killing everyone on board, authorities have said.
Search team officials said they spotted the wreckage from a helicopter flying over high-altitude, steep mountainsides, adding that the aircraft appeared to be completely destroyed.
The twin-engined plane crashed just a few miles from the mountain city of Merida, notoriously difficult for pilots to navigate around, after taking off from there for the capital of Caracas on Thursday evening.
Overnight search teams had also trekked through rugged terrain, and at daylight on Friday aircraft scoured the Andes.
There was no evidence the pilot made distress calls to air traffic controllers, officials said.
The aircraft was operated by local airline Santa Barbara.
Mountain villagers reported hearing a huge noise they thought could be a crash soon after the disappearance of flight 518.
The search operation was conducted from the regional hub city of Barinas in western Venezuela.
The passenger list included a well-known Venezuelan political analyst and relatives of a senior government official, authorities said.
Pilots need special training to fly from the Merida airport because the city is so tightly hemmed in by mountains that planes must make steep ascents at takeoff.