Searchers comb Pacific for more bodies after Peruvian crash
October 2, 1996
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EDT (0310 GMT)
LIMA, Peru (CNN) -- A failed computer navigation system most
likely allowed a pilot to become lost in dense early-morning
mist, causing a Peruvian jet to crash into the Pacific Ocean Wednesday, killing all 70 people aboard.
The Peruvian government blamed the crash on "technical
failures," without elaborating. The flight crashed shortly
after takeoff from Lima; it was bound for Santiago, Chile.
"It seems there was a blockage in the computer system," said
Peruvian Transportation Minister Elsa Carrera de Escalante.
Hampered by fog and rough seas, rescue workers had recovered
10 bodies by nightfall and found parts of the Boeing 757's
white fuselage about 40 miles off shore, west of Ancon, Peru,
said Adm. Jaime Monge, head of navy rescue operations.
At the time of the crash, Aeroperu Flight 603 was carrying 61
passengers, including four Americans, and nine crew members,
the airline said.
Only 11 of the passengers were Peruvians. There were 30
Chileans, two Britons, two Italians, a New Zealander, a
Spaniard and 10 people from other Latin American countries.
Five minutes after the 12:42 a.m. takeoff, pilot Erick
Schreiber reported equipment problems. (7 sec./77K AIFF or WAV sound)
"I don't have any instruments," he said, according to
Carrera, who heard a tape of his conversation with the
control tower in Lima. "What's happening? What altitude am I
at? Why is my ground crash alarm on? Am I over land or sea?"
"You're over sea," the tower reported.
Schreiber calmly asked for a plane to guide him back to the
airport. Just before 1:10 a.m., Schreiber advised the tower
to prepare for a rescue. Then the tower lost contact with the
The pilot never lost his composure during his 28-minute
conversation with the tower, Carrera said.
A reporter with Lima's Radioprogramas radio station flying in
an air force search plane described seeing pieces of seats
and other debris from the jet floating on the fuel-slicked
ocean surface. He said the debris was scattered over a
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who flew over the site,
said the plane's body had sunk about 550 feet (167 meters)
and had been dragged by the current more than three miles
(5 km) from the point of impact.
As rescuers combed the sea through thick fog, anxious family
members awaited news of possible survivors. Some were ushered
into a private room by Aeroperu employees as they arrived at
the Lima airport. Apilio Arande, head of navy security in
the Lima port of Callao, said the search for bodies could
Fishermen at sea when the plane crashed said they saw a flash
of light and heard the dull impact.
This is the second major plane crash this year in Peru. On
February 29, a Faucett Airlines plane crashed in southern
Peru, killing all 123 aboard. It was the worst air accident
in Peru's history.
Reporter Sharon Stevenson, The Associated
Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.
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