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Group: 2002 death toll in air crashes lowest since '47

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GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- Fewer than 1,400 people died in air accidents worldwide in 2002, the lowest number of deaths since 1947, according to the Aircraft Crashes Records Office.

A total of 1,379 people died in 154 accidents, the lowest number of accidents since 1965, the group said in a statement Saturday from Geneva, adding that three accidents were collisions between two aircraft.

The group's total includes virtually all aircraft with the capacity to carry six passengers -- commercial flights, private flights, rescue aircraft, cargo planes and military aircraft used for transporting personnel.

Seventy-nine percent of the crashes involved turboprops; the rest involved jets.

Last year's worst accident was in Taiwan in which 225 people died in the May 25 crash of a China Airlines Boeing 747-200. Second worst was the May 4 crash of a British jet operated by Nigerian domestic carrier EAS, which plowed into a suburb of Kano, Nigeria, killing 149 people.

The Aircraft Crashes Records Office also listed crashes in South Korea, Iran and Germany among the deadliest of the year.

About a quarter of the accidents in 2002 were in Asia, up 15 percent from 2001, the group said.

Nearly half the accidents -- 45 percent -- were in North and South America, down 14 percent from 2001, the group said, with 46 of the crashes in the United States. Those generally involved small aircraft and resulted in 64 deaths, Aircraft Crashes Records Office manager Ronan Hubert said.

The October 25 crash of a small charter flight that killed eight people, including U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, was the largest in the United States, Hubert said.

However, there were no deaths on commercial passenger or cargo planes in the United States last year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Overall, "2002 was a very safe year for aviation," Hubert said.

The Aircraft Crashes Records Office noted that air traffic in 2002 was lower than it was the previous year. "International air traffic still suffered in 2002 from the September 11, 2001, attacks, but world traffic remained buoyant despite the economic situation," the statement said.

Even with the September 11 attacks, the total number of air crashes worldwide has gone down each year for four years, according to the group's statistics.

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