Ventura Man Dies in Plane Crash in Chile

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A retired Ventura resident was among 20 people killed in a plane crash on a remote Chilean island, authorities said Thursday.

William H. Bennett, 71, a retired captain in the Los Angeles City Fire Department, was a passenger on a chartered jetliner with 64 other passengers, mostly Americans, who were on their way to an antarctic cruise organized by a Seattle-based tour company.

Bennett's wife, Mary, characterized her husband as a world traveler, a scuba diver and an underwater photographer.

"He had been in all the warm-water diving spots in the world, from the Red Sea to the Great Barrier Reef," Mary Bennett said. "He led an active life."

According to witnesses, the small four-engine jetliner was trying to land Wednesday at Puerto Williams on Navarino Island when it overshot the runway and crashed into Beagle Channel, authorities said.

The plane sank within minutes, witnesses said, and some passengers froze to death after they jumped into the icy waters of the channel that separates Chili from Argentina near Cape Horn.

Mary Bennett said her husband had looked forward to the trip for a long time.

"The trip was arranged through a company in Seattle that goes to out-of-the-way places," Mary Bennett said. "A few years ago, I accompanied him on a trip to the South Pacific, where we visited Easter Island and Pitcairn Island."

Mary Bennett heard about the plane crash on Wednesday through news reports and called the tour company, which confirmed that it was her husband's expedition. However, she said she did not know her husband had died until officials from the airline called later in the day.

Arrangements for a memorial service are not final, she said.

A resident of Ventura for 15 years, Bennett retired from the Fire Department in 1972. His other survivors include two daughters and one grandson.

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