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Brazil plane crash kills 19 people

Written by: Staff
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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, Apr 1 (Reuters) A Brazilian plane crashed into a mountainside as it carried passengers from the oil town of Macae to Rio de Janeiro, killing all 19 people onboard, rescue services and the airline said today.

Team Empresa Aerea airline said two crew members and 17 passengers died in the yesterday night's crash of the twin engine LET 410 near Saquarema city, about 60 miles east of Rio de Janeiro.

The dead included employees of the construction company Hochtief, which is building an administrative complex for the state-run energy company Petrobras in Macae, Team official David Faria said. They were heading home for the weekend.

The plane left Macae, the base for offshore oil operations in Rio de Janeiro state, for the 40-minute flight to Rio de Janeiro city about 110 miles (180 km) to the southwest.

Contact was lost with the plane about 20 minutes after take-off, he said.

''Local residents heard the noise of the airplane then it collided with a mountain,'' Faria told Reuters.

A fire brigade official in Saquarema said the plane went down in a mountainous region between Saquarema and Rio Bonito.

The terrain had made the recovery operation difficult and rescuers did not reach the site until early today morning.

The aircraft was completely destroyed, the official said.

Faria said no problems were reported with the plane before contact was lost. The cause of the crash was not yet known.

''The pilot had a lot of experience, more than 30 years experience,'' he said.

Two air force helicopters ferried the corpses to a government mortuary in Rio de Janeiro. All were badly burnt and mutilated, Roger Ancilotti, head of the Legal Medical Institute, told Agencia Estado local news agency. Most will need to be identified using DNA tests, he added.

A Hochtief official said its employees were heading to Rio to catch a shuttle flight to Sao Paulo to spend the weekend at home.

The Rio-based airline was set up six years ago mainly to serve personnel in Brazil's oil industry.

REUTERS SHB PC2241

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