updated 4/3/2008 1:54:24 PM ET 2008-04-03T17:54:24

A plane crashed en route to a remote mining region in southern Suriname on Thursday, killing at least 19 people, officials in the South American country said.

The twin-engine Antonov-AN28 was operated by a Surinamese carrier, Blue Wing airlines, said Kenneth Dors, Suriname’s air traffic services director.

Dors said 19 or 20 people were on board, including two crew members, but officials were still trying to determine the exact number. All died in the crash.

Another official, Brian Desouza, flight safety division manager for the aviation authority, said 19 were on board and all were apparently Surinamese.

The plane took off from the capital, Paramaribo, and crashed in a wooded area near the airstrip in the Benzdorp region, on the border with French Guiana, officials said.

“The local people have reached the aircraft; they know what the situation is,” Desouza said. “We’re putting up investigation teams.”

Authorities had not yet determined the cause.

Arie Verkuyl, a member of Blue Wing’s board of directors, told The Associated Press his daughter was the pilot of the aircraft, and that the crash occurred in a light rain just after she had aborted a previous landing attempt and was coming around to try again.

Verkuyl received the information from his son, who is also a Blue Wing pilot and was on the ground at the Benzdorp airstrip when the crash occurred.

“They were so very close to landing. I don’t know what happened,” he said at the company’s offices at an airfield in the capital.

Blue Wing has been in operation since 2002, according to its Web site.

In June 2006, European Union authorities prohibited Blue Wing from landing at European airports after French aviation officials found safety deficiencies during inspection of planes.

The European Commission removed the airline from the blacklist in November 2007, saying the company had resolved the issues.

Suriname is a sparsely populated former Dutch colony on the northeastern shoulder of South America.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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