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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Fiji plane crash kills 17

All 17 passengers and crew died when a plane crashed into a mountain in Fiji.

The Air Fiji Bandeirante, a light turboprop, went down in rugged jungle-covered country, police operations director Jahir Khan said.

[ image: Wreckage was scattered across the thickly forested mountainside]
Wreckage was scattered across the thickly forested mountainside
He said it had crashed near the village of Nasevou, in the interior of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, 70km northwest of the capital Suva shortly after dawn.

Airline officials reported that there had been 15 passengers and two crew on board.

Police commissioner Isikia Savua told reporters in Suva that the plane had been carrying nine Fijians, five Australians, one New Zealander, one Chinese and one Japanese person.

The victims will not be identified before the relatives have been informed.

Air Fiji said the wreckage of flight PC121 had been spotted by a search aircraft soon after it was reported missing.

"A team was sent to investigate and confirmed it was the wreckage of PC121 and the loss of all on board," Air Fiji chief executive Ken MacDonald said in a statement.

The official added in a later news conference that the plane, a Brazilian-built Embraer Bandeirante turbo-prop commuter aircraft, had been serviced the day before.

Low clouds and rain had restricted visibility in the area of the crash when the plane went missing, he said.

The airline, police and Fiji's civil aviation authorities are investigating the crash site.

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