At least 30 people are reported to have survived when a Convaisa plane carrying 47 people crashed Monday during a domestic flight in Venezuela. The aircraft went down about 10 km east of the city of Puerto Ordaz in the eastern part of Venezuela. It was heading to the Caribbean tourist island of Margarita with 43 passengers and four crew on board. The plane crashed onto property belonging to Sidor, which has a large mill and land near Ciudad Guayana, said Transportation Minister Francisco Garces. The pilot, Capt. Ramiro Cardenas, radioed to the air traffic tower that he was having trouble controlling the plane, which gave authorities time to send ambulances and fire trucks to the area before the crash. It remained unclear what may have caused the pilot to lose control.
A photograph published online by Globovision showed the charred wreckage of the plane, an ATR-42 turboprop. The aircraft broke into pieces after coming down in an abandoned yard outside the gates of the country’s largest steel mill, owned by Siderurgica del Orincoco. Control tower workers at the airport in Ciudad Guyana, 330 miles southeast of Caracas, said the plane’s captain reported problems controlling the turboprop shortly after takeoff, Rangel Gomez said. (Bloomberg) The crash occurred about 6 miles from the airport. “We still don’t know the exact cause,” Gomez told state TV, adding that the pilot had radioed warning the plane was in difficulty. (CBC)
Bolivar state Governor Francisco Rangel Gomez told Venezuela-based television network Telesur that survivors were being treated in local hospitals. A Reuters witness at a nearby Puerto Ordaz hospital said 30 survivors – and two corpses – had been brought in from the crash site where wreckage was still smoldering after the mid-morning accident, hampering rescue efforts. Al Jazeera’s Dima Khatib, reporting from Caracas, said: “Two hospitals in the city have said they are finding it difficult to cope with the situation. They are asking people to donate blood to help speed up medical assistance to the injured. The plane fell onto a local metal factory inside a huge industrial zone and it fell onto an area of waste. We have no confirmed that no one on the ground was hurt… all the injured and dead were on the plane.” Aljazeera’s correspondent said the “pilot did report he was having problems; we assume they were mechanical as there were no reports of bad weather.” Jose Bonalde, head of fire services and the scene, told Reuters that 13 corpses had been removed from the plane. Hospital director Yanitza Rodriguez said many of the survivors were seriously injured. Two of the injured died, while 21 others were being treated, Rodriguez said.
Convaisa is Venezuela’s state-owned airline, headquartered near Caracas. It has been in operation since 2004. President Hugo Chavez created Convisa airlines in 2004 to promote tourism, both local and international, according to the airline’s website, which said it has a fleet of 18 planes. Buenos Aires, Argentina is one of Conviasa’s international destinations. Its most worthy and mysterious flight is a weekly one that began in 2007 between Caracas and Damascus-Tehran. The flight has raised concerns that it’s being used for political reasons and not tourism. Chavez maintains good relations with Iran despite warnings from the U.S. According to ACAS, Conviasa has operated the aircraft for exactly four years – since September 2006. The aircraft is owned by Conviasa and was purchased by the government-owned carrier from its previous operator, Air Wales. The aircraft was initially owned by Gill Airways. ATR, which makes 40-70 seat twin-engined turboprops, is a joint venture between Airbus parent company EADS and Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica.
The last plane crash in Venezuela happened in February 2008, when an airplane belonging to Santa Barbara Airlines crashed in the Andes mountains near the city of Merida, killing all 46 people on board.