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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005, 19:47 GMT 20:47 UK
Venezuela plane crash kills 160
Wreckage from crash

A Colombian airliner has crashed in a remote mountainous area of Venezuela killing all 160 people on board.

The 152 passengers were from the French Caribbean island of Martinique - the eight crew members were Colombian, West Caribbean Airways said.

The MD-82 plane was travelling from Panama to Martinique.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane soon after the pilot reported engine problems and requested permission for an emergency landing.

Venezuelan Interior Minister Jesse Chacon said the pilot had asked for authorisation to enter Venezuelan air space and land at Maracaibo airport because of problems with one of the engines.

The pilot then reported that the second engine was also failing and the aircraft began to lose altitude by about 7,000ft (2,100m) a minute over Zulia state, Mr Chacon said.

Short-medium range airliner
Produced from 1980-1999
Capacity: 152 passengers
Two rear-mounted Pratt and Whitney turbofan engines

The plane came down near the town of Machiques, 836km (520 miles) west of Caracas, between 0300 and 0345 local time (between 0700 and 0745 GMT).

"Residents in the area said they heard an explosion," aviation official Francisco Paz said.

Aviation experts say simultaneous mechanical failure in two engines is very uncommon.

"A double engine failure is incredibly, incredibly rare," one expert, Mark Welsh, told the BBC news website.

He said twin engine failure in an aircraft could be caused either by contaminated fuel or a maintenance malfunction.

Heavy rains and the difficult terrain are reported to be hampering the rescue effort.

West Caribbean Airways was set up in 2000 to provide low-cost flights within Colombia and to the Caribbean region, according to the company website.

This is the second incident this year involving the airline. In March a flight taking off from the Colombian island of Providencia crashed, killing eight people.


Do you live in the region? Have you been affected?

I have friends in Colombia, Venezuela as well as in Martinique. I'm really worried about this plane crash. I hope and pray none of my friends in Martinique have been affected. This is really tragic! Please, I need to know more about it!
Joshua, Roraima, Brazil

As a French Caribbean from the sister island of Guadeloupe, obviously I feel deeply saddened by what happened to these people. In the holiday period we've got a lot of our fellow citizens going for holidays in central and South America. This democratization of travel means that more and more people enjoy discovering our surroundings, the problem is that their chartered flights are maybe not always as reliable than a "normal" company. We will need all the support from France in theses difficult moments, it is the first time we in the French West Indies have been affected by something like that, so that makes it as hard for our small population of Guadeloupe and Martinique as it is for Cyprus.
Eric Duquesnoy, London

This is a terrible day for my country. The crew members were from Colombia. I feel very upset with the civil aeronautic. They knew the plane had problems and they just let it fly.
Isaac Hernandez, Bogota, Colombia

I grew up in western Venezuela and my best friend owned the "hacienda" where the plane crashed. I can only imagine the implications ahead, given the proximity to Colombia and the landscape of this remote area.
Ernesto Henriquez, Dallas, Texas

Regions and territories: Martinique
12 May 05 |  Country profiles
Air disasters timeline
14 Aug 05 |  Europe

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