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6 Americans Killed in Plane Crash Near Cancun

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From Times Wire Services

A plane carrying American tourists lost power in one engine and crash-landed in the dense tropical jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula, killing six people and injuring 10, officials said Saturday.

The Aerocozumel flight carrying 18 people was returning to the resort island of Cozumel after taking the tourists to view ancient Indian ruins at Chichen Itza, 115 miles west of Cozumel.

It crashed Friday afternoon about two miles outside the Playa del Carmen airport, about 125 miles northeast of the pre-Columbian ruins at Chichen Itza, the airline said.

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Fifteen of the 16 tourists aboard were U.S. citizens and one was a Canadian, according to airline representative Jaime Valenzuela.

He identified the dead, all of whom were Americans, as Susan Montgomery, 42, of Canby, Ore.; Guillermo and Margaret Salisbury; Pryor and Jayne Hendricks, and Laura Chamberlain. No hometowns or ages were available for those five.

Valenzuela identified the surviving passengers as Gary Anderson, Diana Len, Ross Blocksledye, Rosalyn Knobbs, Gilbert and Sharon Barker, Catherine Wynne, Tony Knobbs and Greg Chamberlain, all Americans, and Glenn Robertson, a Canadian. Their ages and hometowns also were not available.

Valenzuela said the injured, including the pilot and tour guide, were treated at Cancun’s Social Security Institute Hospital.

Jenny Valdez, a U.S. consular official in Cancun, told United Press International in a phone interview that some of the injured suffered fractures. “Some of the victims who were brought to the hospital walked. Some of them were brought in on stretchers, and others in wheelchairs,” she said.

Airline representative Valenzuela said the dead were being taken to the Cancun morgue. U.S. consular representatives said they are working on transporting the bodies back to the United States.

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Valenzuela said the six-year-old, British-made Titalus Trislander airplane was carrying the tourists under contract with Fiesta Cozumel Holidays. He said it left Cozumel on Friday morning.

Alejandro Menache, a federal police spokesman in Cancun, said that shortly before 3 p.m. Friday the pilot informed the control tower at the Cancun airport that he “was having problems with one of the engines.”

“The plane was only about five or 10 minutes from the closest airport of Playa del Carmen when the pilot made a forced landing,” Menache said.

The plane crash-landed in jungle with “very thick” growth up to 50 feet high, and search planes found the wreckage about two hours later, Valenzuela said. However, helicopters were unable to land, so rescuers had to go in on foot.

A rescue team of 70 to 90 people--consisting of army, navy, Red Cross personnel and local residents--hacked with machetes all night, approaching the site about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Valenzuela said. They then cleared a spot for a helicopter to land.

Red Cross worker Josefina Cardiel said the plane crashed inside a ravine, and troops had to clear a path and provide rappelling equipment so Red Cross workers could reach the aircraft.

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