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Lucky crash escape for Honduran ministers

by Staff Writers
Tegucigalpa (AFP) Feb 14, 2011
A politician and a union leader were among 14 people who perished Monday when a small plane crashed near the Honduran capital, but two ministers survived after missing the doomed flight.

"Thanks to fate and to God we did not board, and God has given us a new life," Cesar Ham, the minister of the National Agrarian Institute, said after his lucky escape.

Three Americans were listed among the 14 passengers, all of whom died when the twin-engine Let L-410 Turbolet crashed around 8:00 am local time, according to Gustavo Castaneda, director of Central American Airways.

The names of the Americans were not immediately available, and the US consulate in Tegucigalpa said it was seeking to verify the identities of the victims.

The plane was flying from San Pedro Sula, the country's economic capital, to the capital Tegucigalpa.

Foreign Minister Mario Canahuati was initially said to be on the plane, but a ministry spokesman told AFP the country's top diplomat arrived at the airport late and missed the flight.

Those listed as on board and presumed to be among the dead were deputy minister of public works Rodolfo Robelo, businessman and former government minister Carlos Chain, and Israel Salinas, a union leader and backer of Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted as president in a 2009 coup.

Officials said the plane crashed in bad weather in a mountainous area known as Las Mesitas, around 15 kilometers (10 miles) north of the capital, where a 1989 crash of a Boeing 727 killed 131 people.

Rescue crews arriving in the heavily forested area found fragments of the plane as well as bodies of victims scattered around the crash site.

"There are bodies in the wreckage," said Red Cross spokesman Luis Romero, who added that the remains were being transported to the capital for examination.

Colonel Ruiz Pastor Lanza, head of the Honduran Air Force, said two helicopters were sent to the area after officials learnt that the plane had lost contact with the control tower.

The Let 410 is a Czech-made twin turboprop, used on short haul flights.

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