Flight 518-Andes Mountain Crash, 46 on board
Head of the Civil Defense for Merida, Noel Marquez, said locals saw the plane go down 500 kilometers (300 miles) southwest of Caracas, in the Andean region of Coyado del Condor.
The Santa Barbara Airlines flight went missing after departing from Merida at 5:45 pm (2245 GMT).
Rescue teams are in transit, according to Marquez. The plane they are searching for is a French-Italian-made ATR42 twin-engine turbo-prop. It crashed approximately 15,600 feet above sea level and sent no emergency signals prior to its disappearance. When air traffic controllers had been out of contact with flight 518 for hours, alarms went out.
Advance rescue teams traveled toward the Paramo Mifafi valley. The first rescue team left Thursday night for the village of Mucuchies, an hour from Merida but won’t not arrive at the accident location for about three hours because of the steep terrain and near freezing temperatures. Marquez, said “Early tomorrow (Friday) two M17 rescue helicopters will be deployed.” Until then, over a hundred searchers are working on on the ground.
National Civil Defense chief Antonio Rivero said officially that the plane is still listed as missing.The passenger list included a Venezuelan political analyst and relatives of a government official. The pilot had received special training for flying in the Andes and had been employed by Santa Barbara Airlines eight years.
The 20-year-old plane had no record of technical problems but the Aviation Safety Network publishes that the ATR 42 series has been involved in at least 17 accidents its beginnings in 1984. Psychologists have been sent to counsel relatives waiting at the airport.