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At least five dead as plane crash-lands in Honduras

At least five people are killed and 65 injured when a jet owned by TACA airlines slid across a runway and onto a road as it tried to land at Tegucigalpa airport.

world Updated: May 31, 2008 08:46 IST

At least five people were killed and 65 injured on Friday when a jet owned by Central America's TACA airlines slid across a runway and onto a road as it tried to land at Tegucigalpa airport, rescue personnel said.

The plane was an Airbus A-320 carrying 124 passengers plus crew and was flying a Los Angeles-San Salvador-Tegucigalpa route, officials said.

The plane skidded off the runway, crashed down a 20-meter (66-foot) embankment, plowed across a road and broke into three pieces, TACA officials said.

TACA manager Armando Funes could not give precise figures about the victims but told local media that "the plane was completely destroyed" and that "the passengers were being taken to hospitals for evaluation."

Among the dead was Nicaraguan Harry Brautigam, the president of the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, according to Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

At least 65 people were hospitalized, including Brazil's ambassador to Tegucigalpa, Jose Roberto de Almeida Pinto.

Many suffered smoke inhalation from a fire that ignited during the crash, rescue personnel said.

Authorities could not immediately say whether there were any victims on the ground.

Honduras Industry and Commerce Minister Norman Garcia said poor visibility could have contributed to the crash.

"It was a difficult landing due to the clouds at Toncontin (airport). The cloud ceiling was very low and the pilot attempted to land on the first try but had to take flight again," said Garcia.

"On the second try, I saw the plane's tires touch the runway right in front of the terminal, and that was a sign he had overshot the runway," he said.

Also among the wounded were Costa Ricans, Mexicans, Guatemalans and Hondurans, according to information provided by diplomatic missions to local media.

The airport at Tegucigalpa is ringed by mountains and considered one of the most dangerous in Central America, according to aviation experts.

This was the eighth registered accident since 1959 for TACA, which underwent a major expansion in 1997 when it acquired several smaller regional carriers.