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'Pulverized' wreckage of Venezuela plane found

Searchers found the shattered wreckage of a plane carrying 46 people in the mountains of western Venezuela on Friday, and officials said all on board were killed.
Image: Relatives of passengers on a flight reported missing in Venezuela
Relatives of passengers aboard a flight reported missing while flying from the southern Venezuela town of Merida to Caracas await news at the Simon Bolivar airport in Maiquetia on Thursday.Fernando Llano / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Searchers found the shattered wreckage of a plane carrying 46 people in the mountains of western Venezuela on Friday, and officials said all on board were killed.

The twin-engine plane slammed into the face of a mountainside, “and by the way it crashed we can determine there are no survivors,” said Gen. Ramon Vinas, head of the civil aviation authority.

The flight was reported missing 30 minutes after takeoff on Thursday from the city of Merida. The rescue crews were in the mountainous area of Collado del Condor, at an altitude of about 13,000 feet.

Residents in the area reported by phone “that they heard a great crash,” said Noel Marquez, the emergency management director in Merida state.

The twin-engine plane, owned by Venezuelan airline Santa Barbara, failed to contact control towers in two cities as expected after it took off en route to Simon Bolivar International Airport near Caracas, said Gen. Antonio Rivero, Venezuela’s emergency management director.

Emotional scene at airport
Before the crash site was found, relatives and friends of those on board gathered in tears, some of them embracing, at Simon Bolivar International Airport as they awaited word from authorities.

Map locates Caracas and Merida, Venezuela; 1c x 1 7/8 inches; 46.5 mm x 47.6 mmYuko Yajima / AP

Santa Barbara is a small airline that covers domestic routes in Venezuela.

The French-made ATR 42-300 carrying 43 passengers and three crew members took off from Merida’s airport at 4:59 p.m., officials said.

The duration of the flight was to have been an hour and 45 minutes.

The area where it disappeared is about 400 miles southwest of Caracas.