November 22, 2002

Ecuador Plane Crashes in Colombia, 94 on Board

An Ecuadorean jetliner carrying 94 people crashed Monday in the fog-bound mountains of the Andes across the border in Colombia, an airline spokesman said.

The Boeing 727-100 from Ecuador's TAME airline lost radio contact at 10:23 a.m., the Civil Aviation department said in a statement. It was carrying 85 passengers, including seven children, and nine crew members, the statement said. Civil Aviation initially said 92 people were on board.

The plane, which originated in Quito, crashed in Colombian territory near Ipiales, a city just across the border from the plane's destination, the Ecuadorean city of Tulcan, said TAME spokeswoman, Toa Quirola. "We don't have any more information at this time," she added.

Diego Vallejo, a spokesman for the Ecuadorean Red Cross, said rescue workers knew where the plane crashed but that they hadn't been able to reach the site. "The plane is located in Colombian territory," he said, without specifying where. Vallejo said his organization had contacted the Colombian Red Cross about cooperating in rescue efforts.

Colombia offered to help locate the aircraft, Colombian Civil Aviation director Juan Carlos Velez said, but he added that he could not confirm that the plane went down in Colombian territory.

The plane's planned flight path took it into Colombian airspace and over Ipiales as it headed to Tulcan, 110 miles northeast of Quito, the TAME spokesman said. The mayor's office of Ipiales, located six miles northeast of Tulcan, said the city's airport was closed because of fog.

It was the second crash this month in the border region.

A plane from Ecuador's state-owned oil company with 26 people on board crashed in Colombian territory Jan. 17 while heading from Quito to Lago Agrio, an oil outpost in the Amazon jungle 110 miles northeast of the capital.

Six days later, searchers found the wreckage of the twin-engine propeller plane on a jungle-covered hillside a few miles across the border. All 21 passengers and five crew members on board died.

Tulcan is about 30 miles northwest of where the oil company plane crashed.

(China Daily January 29, 2002)

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