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14 killed in French Polynesia air crash

  • Story Highlights
  • Air Moorea aircraft crashes after takeoff in Moorea Island, en route to Papeete
  • Police say 14 bodies recovered; all 20 people aboard 'feared dead'
  • Papeete authorities say victims include two tourists and two European officials
  • Air Moorea says it had never had an accident in its 35-year history
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PAPEETE, France (Reuters) -- A passenger aircraft ploughed into the sea in French Polynesia on Thursday, killing at least 14 people, with another six still missing, French authorities in Papeete said.

art.plane.nasa.jpg

A Twin Otter aircraft similar to the Air Moorea plane that crashed Thursday after take-off from Moorea Island.

An Air Moorea Twin Otter aircraft with 19 passengers and a pilot on board crashed after taking off from Temae airport in Moorea Island, en route to the local capital, Papeete, a short flight away.

Police said 14 bodies, including that of the pilot, had been recovered but no survivors had been found. The search for the remaining passengers was continuing. All but two of the victims were French.

A spokeswoman for Air Moorea said all 20 people aboard the aircraft were feared killed.

"We heard a big boom," an unidentified fisherman told French television. "We didn't try to understand, we were just there, we took maybe 30 seconds to get there. We just saw a whole lot of debris on the surface and bodies as well."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement he was "profoundly saddened" by the accident and offered his sympathy to the families of the victims.

Christian Estrosi, secretary of state for France's overseas territories, would go to the region to show the government's solidarity, he said.

Television pictures showed police boats at the scene of the accident with divers in the water and emergency workers at temporary posts on the shore.

The plane, a Dehavilland Twin Otter aircraft, veered to the right after take-off for the short flight to the main island of Tahiti and crashed into the ocean at around 12:15 p.m. local time (2215 GMT) on Thursday.

Aviation authorities said weather conditions were clear.

The plane came down one mile from the coast near fishermen, who tried to help those on board, Air Moorea said in a statement. It gave no further details.

Moorea is one of around 118 islands scattered across an area the size of Europe in the South Pacific that make up France's overseas territory of French Polynesia.

Authorities in Papeete said the victims included two tourists and two European officials posted to the region, who local media said had been visiting a water purification plant.

Moorea is popular with foreign tourists and the crash occurred in the tourist high season.

The bodies of all the victims found so far have been taken by French navy personnel to a mortuary. Air Moorea, a subsidiary of domestic airline Air Tahiti, said it had never had an accident in its 35-year history. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

All About PapeeteFrench PolynesiaAir Disasters

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