updated 5/8/2005 9:39:51 PM ET 2005-05-09T01:39:51

Police recovered the flight recorder and began removing bodies Monday from a plane that went down in a rain forest, killing all 15 aboard in Australia’s worst civil aviation accident in almost four decades.

The twin-propeller plane, with two pilots and 13 passengers, was heading to Lockhart River, a remote Aboriginal community and artist colony in Queensland, when it crashed Saturday in the rain and burst into flames about seven miles from its destination, police said.

The plane’s flight recorder, recovered Sunday, was sent to a Canberra laboratory for analysis. Authorities began recovering bodies from the remote crash site on Monday.

The crash was Australia’s worst civil aviation accident since 1968, when an MMA Viscount crashed near Port Hedland in Western Australia state, killing 26.

Police said it was unclear what caused the crash of the Fairchild Metroliner plane, operated by north Queensland-based airline Aero-Tropics.

The scheduled flight was en route from Bamaga, a community of 2,000 near the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, about 170 miles from Lockhart River, a tiny township mostly recently known as the home of a critically acclaimed group of Aboriginal artists whose works sell for tens of thousands of dollars

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