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Colombian Plane Crashes into Neighborhood: 23 Dead

February 5, 1996

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ Falling like a fireball from the sky, a flaming cargo plane crashed into a row of houses, killing 23 people, including five brothers who had been playing volleyball.

The Colombian DC-8, en route to Miami via Brazil, had been in the air barely a minute Sunday after taking off from Asuncion’s international airport when its left turbine caught fire, sending it out of control, witnesses said.

The 2:30 p.m. crash transformed the sleepy streets of a working-class neighborhood into a scene of bloody mayhem.

Mothers desperately searched for missing children, and Paraguayans who flocked to the scene cried and shrieked as rescue workers pulled the dead from the debris.

Seven of the victims were children, including five brothers who had been staying with their grandmother. When their parents returned, all six were dead.

``It all happened so quickly,″ said witness Cesar Rivarola. ``I heard an explosion and looked to the sky. The plane was in a spin.″

The plane, which was not carrying any cargo, went down in the neighborhood of Juan Sinforiano Bogarin, two miles northwest of the airport and nine miles north of the capital.

It had been a beautiful day. People had been drinking cold beer in bars, playing billiards or taking siestas while children played volleyball.

Suddenly the blazing plane fell from the sky, destroying seven houses and scattering debris over the streets.

Rescue workers sifted through the wreckage into the night, searching for further victims.

Television footage showed one man stealing part of the plane’s turbine from the debris shortly after the crash.

The plane’s three-person crew and one passenger died in the crash. All were Colombians. The civil aviation office said firefighters found the aircraft’s flight recorder in the smoldering debris.

The aircraft belonged to the Linea Aerea del Caribe, said Artemio Nunes, director of the Interior Ministry’s National Emergencies Committee.

Officials said the plane was en route to Miami via the Brazilian airport of Campinas, near Sao Paulo. It had arrived in Asuncion earlier in the day from Miami via Barranquilla, Colombia.

The plane had brought an unidentified cargo that was being held at Asuncion airport’s customs offices.

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