13 people killed in Peru plane crash; passengers expressed fears prior to flying

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Peruvian Air Force Twin Otter plane crashed on May 24 in Peru, killing at least 13 people.

The plane was part of a service to help remote communities not served by commercial flights, and crashed shortly after takeoff in a thunderstorm in dense jungle 563 kilometres from Lima. The flight originated in Iquitos, capital of the region, and had flown on to Orellana, where it had just taken off from when the accident occurred.

Survivors said after the crash that they had attempted to persuade the pilot not to takeoff in the adverse weather conditions, but they had been assured by Air Force personnel that they would be safe as they were on board a military aircraft.

Survivor Juan Saavedra said that, on takeoff, the pilot immediately began struggling to control the plane in high winds. It then dropped and flew between two trees, shearing off its wings. Another survivor said that immediately prior to the crash the pilot gave an order to turn off the engine in a move that is speculated to have been intended to prevent a post-impact fire.

Local officials said 20 people were on board, with police giving seven survivors and the Defence Ministry eight. No passenger list or official report has yet been released regarding the crash, but it is known that 13 bodies were recovered from the wreckage. Juan Montes, a police spokesman in the jungle village Contamana, supposed to be the aircraft's next stop, said that the plane had a three-man crew, all of whom were killed.

Maria Luisa Armas, 93, the oldest resident of Contamana, is reported by survivors to have survived initially but insisted that other survivors leave her in the aircraft and go off to find help. She was one of the 13 deceased ultimately pulled out of the wreckage.

The survivors were taken to Pucallpa, which was supposed to be the last stop on the flight.

According to the state news agency, Andina, homes had been deroofed and trees felled by powerful winds earlier the same day.