All 155 Dead in Brazil Plane Crash

The Associated Press
Sunday, October 1, 2006; 11:02 PM

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Authorities said Sunday there were no survivors among the 155 people aboard the Brazilian jetliner that crashed deep in the Amazon jungle in the nation's worst air disaster, as rescue workers began pulling bodies out of the twisted wreckage.

Aviation officials have said the Boeing 737-800 and a smaller executive jet apparently clipped each other in midair Friday, causing Gol airlines Flight 1907 to crash in jungle so dense that crews had to cut down trees to clear a space for rescue helicopters to land. The smaller plane _ carrying Americans _ safely landed at a nearby air force base.

The Brazilian air force said in a statement that rescue workers had combed through the wreckage and found no signs that anyone could have survived the crash. Rescue workers had recovered two bodies by Sunday night and airlifted them out by helicopter, the statement said.

Gol airlines, which operated the flight, confirmed there were no survivors in its own release. About 30 Brazilian air force troops were at the site late Sunday looking for more bodies.

"It's extremely difficult to get there," said Ademir Ribeiro, a foreman on the nearby Jarina ranch, the center for rescue operations. The ranch was located in the central state of Mato Grosso, some 1,090 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.

Celio Wilson de Oliveira, the Mato Grosso state Secretary of Justice and Public Safety, said the commercial plane crashed near a reservation of the Kayapo Capoto-Jarina Indians in Xingu Park, and Indians with machetes had helped hack a path to the crash site.

But Ribeiro said rescue workers were keeping everyone away from the wreckage.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who appeared headed to a runoff in his bid for re-election Sunday, declared three days of official morning.

"Brazil is suffering with this," he said in a statement.

The list of passengers on the commercial jet was not released, and it wasn't clear if any foreigners were aboard.

The Globo news agency said Sunday that police questioned the seven passengers and crew aboard the executive jet, which had been headed to the United States. The passengers, all Americans, included Joe Sharkey, a journalist for The New York Times.

The seven said they felt a bump and the plane shake when the planes clipped each other, Globo reported. The pilot then took manual control for the landing, the news agency said.

The New York Times reported that Sharkey sent an e-mail to his wife saying: "Neither of the pilots can understand how a 737 could have hit us without them seeing it."

But National Civil Aviation Agency general director Milton Zuanazzi said Sunday it was possible.

"They said they didn't see anything. But this is absolutely normal. ... In these conditions, you only a see a shadow and a noise," said Zuanazzi.

Authorities have not given a definitive cause for the crash, and the investigation was continuing.

Brazil's deadliest airplane crash before Friday was in 1982 when a Boeing 727 operated by the now-defunct Vasp airline went down in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, killing 137 people.

The flight data recorder of the Legacy was flown to Sao Jose dos Campos, the base of aircraft manufacturer Embraer. The recorders of the 737 had not yet been recovered.

The crash was the first major disaster for Gol Linhas Aereas Intelligentes SA, a Brazilian airline that took to the skies in 2001 with six Boeing 737s, serving seven Brazilian cities. Gol said its jet had been delivered by Boeing Co. just three weeks ago, and had flown only 200 hours.

© 2006 The Associated Press