- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 24, 2005

LIMA, Peru — A Peruvian airliner carrying 100 persons crashed yesterday near a jungle town while attempting an emergency landing, killing at least 37 persons and injuring about 40, officials said.

The Boeing 737 went down near the Pucallpa municipal airport after the pilot radioed that he could not land because of strong winds and a torrential downpour, Norma Pasquel, a Pucallpa airport receptionist, told the Associated Press by phone.

The plane circled the airport until trying to make the emergency landing. Officials and radio reports said the plane crashed near a highway, indicating that the pilot might have been trying to land on the roadway.

The jet was carrying 11 foreigners, including seven U.S. passengers, according to a TANS Airlines flight list.

Cesar Arroyo, a provincial prosecutor, told Radioprogramas that 37 to 40 bodies had been pulled from the wreckage of TANS Flight 204.

“There are still many more bodies to recover, but now they have stopped operations because of darkness and the muddy terrain,” he said. “Tomorrow at 7 a.m., we will finish the recovery work.”

But TANS spokesman Jorge Belevan told reporters there was still no confirmation on the death toll. He said the plane was carrying 92 passengers and eight crew members and was attempting an emergency landing when it crashed.

Mr. Belevan said the plane was carrying three foreigners, including two Americans. There was no indication whether they were among the casualties.

“There are 40 cadavers that rescue teams are pulling from the wreckage. There could be more deaths. We assume some 60 people in total since we’ve rescued 20 injured people,” a police officer in Pucallpa told Radioprogramas.

Berta Garcia, a secretary at Pucallpa’s municipal hospital, told Radioprogramas that 10 bodies had been brought there. She said her hospital was treating 26 injured passengers and that 14 others were being treated at a local clinic. Reports said many of the injured had burns and broken bones.

A man identifying himself as William Zea, a passenger on the plane, told CPN radio by telephone that the plane was traveling from Lima to Pucallpa and onto the northern jungle city of Iquitos when it “suffered some malfunction, and we went down.”

Tomas Ruiz, another passenger, told Radioprogramas: “It seems it was a matter of the weather. Ten minutes before we were to land in Pucallpa, the plane began to shake a lot.”

In January 2003, a TANS twin engine Fokker 28 turbojet plowed into a 11,550-foot high mountain in Peru’s northern jungle, killing all 42 passengers — including eight children — and four crew members.

Rain, low clouds and the rugged, steep terrain of the cloud forest region kept search teams from locating the wreckage for two days.

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