A plane carrying 51 people crashed Monday in a steel mill yard in eastern Venezuela, killing 15 people on board, officials said.
Workers at the state-run Sidor steel foundry pulled people from the smoking wreckage of the plane owned by Venezuelan state airline Conviasa, and officials said 36 passengers and crew survived.
Foundry worker Frank Oliveros, 44, said he saw a huge billow of smoke after the crash, then saw the wreckage and joined dozens of fellow employees and firefighters who rushed to the scene.
“I don’t remember names … faces,” Oliveros told The Associated Press by telephone. “Our only interest was getting all the people out of there alive.”
The partially scorched fuselage of French-built ATR 42 rested among barrels and shipping containers.
Fifteen people were killed after the crash about six miles (10 kilometers) from the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel Gomez told reporters. Forensic experts have yet to identify six of the bodies, he said.
“A miracle occurred today,” said Rangel Gomez, referring to the number of survivors.
The bodies of all the victims have been located, but authorities have not yet identified them all, Rangel Gomez said.
It was unclear what caused the crash.
The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, was carrying 47 passengers and four crew members, Rangel Gomez said. Only one of the crew members survived, he said.
He said that Conviasa Flight 2350 had taken off from Margarita Island — a Caribbean island that is one of Venezuela’s top tourist destinations — and crashed shortly before reaching its destination, the airport of Puerto Ordaz.
The state airline, Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aeros SA, began operations in 2004. It says it serves destinations in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Argentina, Iran and Syria.
In a statement, President Hugo Chavez lamented the crash and sent his condolences to relatives of the victims.
“All Venezuelans are mourning, full of sorrow and tears as a result of this tragedy,” Chavez wrote.
Chavez praised rescue teams and Sidor workers for saving injured passengers. The socialist leader said the government is investigating to “clarify the causes of this very lamentable incident.” AP