Peru air force plane crashes, at least 8 survive

/ Source: The Associated Press

A government flight that linked Peru’s isolated jungle communities crashed in a storm, officials said, and at least eight survivors among the 20 people on board were rescued Friday after helicopters spotted a fire some had set.

The Twin Otter plane was declared missing Thursday evening after leaving Orellana, some 360 miles northeast of Lima, the Defense Ministry said. Regional officials said a three-man air force crew and 17 civilian passengers were on board.

Defense Minister Allan Wagner said a police helicopter rescued one survivor and a marine patrol that reached the crash site by land found seven others. He said the plane was found in a low, jungle-covered mountain range some 12 miles from Orellana.

An air force spokeswoman said one of the survivors, a woman, was being taken by helicopter to a hospital.

Julio Barrientos, a government prosecutor in the Ucayali region, where the plane went down, told Radioprogramas, Lima’s top radio news station, that rescue helicopters spotted a fire set by the survivors in a jungle clearing. He said there was at least one survivor.

The plane was part of the air force’s civic action flights that connect small communities in the jungle not served by commercial airliners.

Officials in Iquitos, the city 625 miles northeast of Lima where the flight originated, said low clouds and heavy rain were hindering rescue operations.

Norman Lewis del Alcazar, vice president of the Loreto region, whose capital is Iquitos, confirmed that the plane was carrying 17 passengers when it left Orellana in a downpour.

Ivan Vasquez, president of the Loreto region, complained that the air force planes that provide the civic action flights are all old.

There are few roads in the vast northeastern jungle of Peru, and other than river travel, which can take days, the flights are the only way to reach distant points.