A chartered cargo plane has killed at least 100 people after it smashed into a busy street in Santa Cruz, a city in the west of Bolivia. The Boeing 707 ploughed into buildings in the city’s main avenue and crashed into young footballers playing at a ground close to the runway.
The incident is feared to have claimed the lives of the plane’s three American crew as well as scores of civilians on the ground. Reports suggest the Lloyd Aereo Boliviano jet lost power from one of its four engines soon after taking off from Santa Cruz airport at 1330 local time.
Officials say it was the worst aviation disaster in the history of this South American country. A Bolivian Air Force officer said: “People at the scene said they heard an explosion before it fell and saw fire in one of the motors on the left wing.”
According to observers, the aircraft shaved the tops of trees and demolished a corner off a primary school. The wreckage then ploughed into a shop killing a queue of people waiting to buy paraffin.
It finally crashed into a practice field outside a municipal football stadium where two teams were playing. Several spectators were killed and eight boys in the changing room at the time of the impact were suffocated by smoke from the burning wreckage.
An eyewitness said: “All those people were destroyed, burned and mutilated. It was like a scene from Dante.” At least 100 Bolivians are in hospital getting treatment according to a government spokesman.
The plane was owned by Jet Power Inc of Miami Florida and chartered by the national airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano. The Boeing 707 had delivered oil well machinery and other cargo from Houston, Texas to Santa Cruz before its last fatal journey.
Courtesy BBC News
A total of 91 people died following the accident – three crew and 88 people on the ground. President Hugo Banzer of Bolivia announced three days of mourning after the crash. Further investigations revealed the accident was probably the result of human error. The crew was suffering from fatigue and failed to select enough thrust to achieve the necessary acceleration for take-off.