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Survivors of Jungle Crash-Landing Kept Calm During Ordeal

May 7, 1989

CANCUN, Mexico (AP) _ Airline passengers who survived a crash-landing in the Yucatan Peninsula kept calm as they waited overnight for rescuers to cut their way through dense jungle, a U.S. official said Sunday.

″They did everything they could to help each other and to help themselves,″ said Gennie Valdez, a U.S. consular representative who was working with crash victims.

The Aerocozumel flight carrying 18 people, mostly Americans, crash-landed at about 2:30 p.m. Friday in a remote area about 40 miles south of Cancun. Authorities blamed engine failure for the crash.

Six people, all American tourists, were killed and 10 people were injured. Fifteen of the 16 tourists aboard were U.S. citizens and one was a Canadian.

The airline identified the dead as Susan Montgomery, 42, of Canby, Ore.; Guillermo and Margaret Salisbury; Pryor and Jayne Hendricks; and Laura Chamberlain. All the dead were U.S. citizens, and only the hometown and age of Ms. Montgomery were available.

A Mexican navy helicopter Saturday ferried the last survivor to a Cancun hospital nearly 24 hours after the accident.

″They’re in shock,″ said Valdez. ″But I don’t have anybody who is not handling it. It’s impressive. It was a serious emergency.″

The most badly injured was a man with a broken hip, said Jaime Valenzuela, a representative for Aerocozumel. Three people were released on Saturday after undergoing brief observation, Valdez said.

Valenzuela said it took two hours for rescue aircraft to spot the downed Tilatus Trislander, a British-made, triple-engine aircraft, after a passing commercial jetliner had picked up the plane’s distress signal.

Scores of rescue workers, assisted by local residents familiar with the jungle turf, hacked a trail with machetes to the downed plane Friday afternoon.

They worked throughout the night and finally reached the plane at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Rescuers cleared a site just big enough to allow a navy helicopter to land. It began ferrying out the dead and wounded at mid-morning.

Valdez said she didn’t think a faster rescue would have saved lives.

″What I’ve heard is that most of those who died died instantly,″ she said.

The Aerocozumel flight was returning to the resort island of Cozumel after taking the tourists to view ancient Indian ruins at Chichen Itza, 115 miles west of Cozumel.

It crashed about two miles outside the Playa del Carmen airport, or about 125 miles northeast of Chichen Itza.

Valenzuela said Capt. Carlos Corso, 34, made the landing after two of the three engines apparently failed.

Update hourly