Brazil: Plane Crashes With 20 Aboard; 4 Survivors


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - A small plane headed to the jungle city of Manaus crashed Saturday in Brazil's Amazon with 20 people on board,
officials said. Four survivors have been found.

The plane was being used as an "air taxi" to ferry passengers between cities in the thick jungle when it crashed into the Manacapuru river about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, a state government spokesman said.

Rescuers were at the scene and were searching for survivors, but
so far just the four have been found, said the spokesman, who spoke
on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.

"The survivors said they saw one of the plane's motors stop," Daniel Guedes, a police official in the city of Manacapuru near the crash site, told the Internet news portal Terra.

Guedes told Terra the plane had left the city of Coari, 225 miles (360 kilometers) southwest of Manaus. The flight's destination was Manaus.

Calls to Guedes office Saturday evening rang unanswered.

A spokeswoman for Brazil's Civil Aeronautics Agency - known as ANAC - in Brasilia gave the plane's tail numbers as PT-SEA. According to ANAC's Web site, the plane with that tail number is an Embraer EMB-110P1 model, a small twin turbo-prop plane that carries up to 21 people.

Brazil's Center for Investigation and Prevention of Flight Accidents, or Cenipa, said the pilot had tried to turn the plane around near the site of the crash.

"The plane lost radio contact near the city of Manacapuru, but had indicated that it was turning around and returning to Coari," said a Cenipa spokeswoman who didn't give her name per department
policy. "The pilot gave no reason for the action."

The spokeswoman said the area where the crash occurred had seen rainy conditions throughout the day, but could not confirm what the weather was like when the plane went down.

O Globo newspaper, citing Brazilian aviation officials, said the pilot reported to air controllers in Manaus shortly before the crash that the plane had encountered driving rain.

The Cenipa official said the four survivors were in good condition.

A cause for the crash was not yet known and it was not clear if any tourists were on board.

The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, citing an unnmamed local police official, said the plane was full of members of one family heading to Manaus to celebrate a relative's birthday.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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