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Sun, May 27, 2007

At Least Eight Survive Peruvian Air Force Crash

20 On Board When Twin Otter Went Down Thursday

Officials say that eight people on board a government flight survived the crash of a De Havilland Twin Otter in Peru's northeastern jungle in a rainstorm Thursday, plowing into dense jungle an hour after take off, reported News24.

The plane (file photo of type, above) was part of the air force's civic action flights, which connect small communities in the jungle not served by commercial airliners.

The survivors, including a pregnant woman, were rescued Friday, according to Defense Minister Allan Wagner.

"The information that I have is that a police helicopter reached a site near where the plane was found and found a survivor," he said. "A marine patrol, by land, found seven other survivors."

The Associated Press, however, reported some of the survivors had set a fire, leading to the rescue after the fire was spotted by helicopters.

According to Bloomberg, the air force mobilized two helicopters, military airplanes and troops to assist in the search and rescue operation.

The Twin Otter plane was declared missing Thursday evening after leaving Orellana, 360 miles northeast of Lima, the Defense Ministry said.

Regional officials said a three-man air force crew and 17 civilian passengers were on board.

"According to witness accounts, the plane crashed and split in two when it hit a hill. The survivors were in the back end of the aircraft," Vazquez said.

He said he had spoken to one survivor, a woman seven months pregnant, who said the plane had been caught in a storm.

Julio Barientos, an official from the central-eastern Ucayali department, said the woman was rescued and taken to a regional hospital in Pucallpa, capital city of the department.

The health condition of the other seven survivors was unknown and the rescue teams continued their search for the remaining 12 passengers of the ill-fated aircraft.

The aircraft lost radio contact while flying over Contamana city in bad weather condition.

"It's a miracle anyone survived," Vazquez said.

De Havilland, which was bought by Canada's Bombardier in 1992, discontinued the Twin Otter in 1988, Bombardier spokesman Marc Holloran said.

The plane is usually configured to seat between 18 and 20 people, said Dominique Spragg, vice president of manufacturing at Sindey, Canada-Based Viking Air Limited, which bought the rights to begin producing the plane again last year. The plane has wheels and pontoons, making it ideal for operations in remote areas that lack paved runways, he said.

FMI: www.peru.gob.pe, www.fap.mil.pe

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