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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
China crash plane 'blown off course'
Recovery workers at the crash site
Teams are searching the crash site for clues
The South Korean Government says an Air China plane which crashed into a hillside in South Korea on Monday killing 115 people had been blown off course by strong winds.

They made the announcement about the landing and started playing music and we crashed about five minutes later

Park Choon-Ja, survivor
Thirty-nine people survived the crash about eight kilometres (five miles) north of the city of Busan, South Korean officials said; another 15 who were found alive died shortly afterwards.

Twelve people are reported to be missing.

China's official Xinhua news agency said the pilot, named as Wu Xinlu, and another member of the crew, Wang Ze, were among the survivors.

A 13-strong South Korean Government task force has been set up to investigate the cause of the crash, believed to be the first in Air China's 47-year history.

Strong winds

South Korean Vice Construction and Transportation Minister Choo Byuung-Jik said the plane, which was on a flight from the Chinese capital, Beijing, crashed into the Shineo mountain while trying to land.

1. Flight CA-129 ordered to take minor detour due to poor weather
2. Plane turns and hits fog-shrouded Shineo Mountain tail first
3. Some survivors make their way down mountainside seeking help

  Flight CA-129: The final moments

"The Chinese airplane was to have landed at the airport but due to strong head winds blowing it off course, it had to fly in the opposite direction and crashed while turning around," he said.

South Korean aviation officials said details of the results of the investigation would not be revealed until all the flight data had been analysed.

Recovery workers retrieved the plane's black box recorder hours after the crash and are searching for the cockpit voice recorder.

Pilot 'unaware'

Excerpts released by aviation authorities of the final conversation between the pilot and the air traffic control tower indicate the pilot was unaware of the impending disaster.

Crash victims' relatives
Most of those on board were South Koreans
According to French news agency AFP, officials at Busan's Kimhae airport said the aircraft had been given permission to land just before it crashed.

Witnesses and survivors on board the doomed Flight CA-129 said the plane lowered altitude before it ploughed into the mountainside as it circled to land in thick fog and heavy rain.

"They made the announcement about the landing and started playing music and we crashed about five minutes later," said passenger Park Choon-Ja.

The plane burst into flames and broke up on impact.

Crash 'tail first'

The official South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted aviation officials as saying the rear part of the plane appeared to have hit the mountainside first.

Air China
Largest airline in China
More than 11,000 employees including 1,300 pilots
69 planes including 18 B-747s
Operates 114 national and international routes
Plans to list on New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges later this year

The news agency said most of the survivors were seated in the front of the aircraft, a Boeing 767-200.

The airline in Beijing said the passengers comprised 136 South Koreans plus other nationalities, mostly Chinese.

The crash comes just weeks before South Korea co-hosts the World Cup football finals with Japan.

The number of regional flights into the country has been increased to accommodate the tens of thousands of extra visitors who will be attending football matches, including large numbers from China.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"Out of 160 passengers, a quarter escaped with their lives, it's a figure that defies belief"
See also:

15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Eyewitness: Korea plane crash
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Korea plane crash
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Flight CA-129: The final moments
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Air China's record blotted
12 Feb 02 | World
Air disaster timeline
22 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Double disaster hits China
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Korea
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