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At Least 22 Dead as Colombian Plane Crashes into Neighborhood

February 4, 1996

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ A Colombian cargo plane caught fire in the air shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing at least 22 people when it crashed into houses in a suburban neighborhood, the government said.

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 black box in the smoldering debris.

Among the victims were seven children, including five brothers, who had been playing an outdoor volleyball match in the streets of the Juan Sinforiano Bogarin neighborhood, 2 1/2 miles northwest of the airport and 9 miles north of the capital.

Eyewitness Cesar Rivarola told reporters he saw the aircraft’s left turbine catch fire in mid-air before the plane apparently went out of control and crashed.

``It started spinning in the air, as if it was doing acrobatics, and then fell to the ground nose-first,″ Rivarola said.

A couple told television reporters they had left their five children with their grandmother, who had taken them to play volleyball. On returning to look for them, the parents found all six were dead.

The plane, which was not carrying any cargo, crashed into seven houses and burst into flames, destroying the buildings. Light rain was helping to douse the fires, rescue workers said.

Parents began a desperate search for children who had been playing in the streets of the middle-class neighborhood. Firefighters searched for other victims among the debris.

Television footage showed several people raking through the debris. One man was seen stealing part of the plane’s turbine.

The DC-8 F55, belonging to the Linea Aerea del Caribe, took off from the South American city’s international airport about 2:30 p.m. local time, 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 the city of Sao Paulo. It had arrived in Asuncion earlier in the day from Miami via Barranquilla, Colombia.

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

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