Searchers climbed the slopes of a volcano Thursday to recover the bodies of 65 people, including at least five Americans, who were killed in El Salvador’s deadliest air disaster.
Aviateca Flight 901 took off from Miami on Wednesday en route to San Salvador and stopped in Guatemala City. It was approaching Comalapa Airport near San Salvador at about 7:30 p.m. when it crashed near the top of 7,000-foot Chichontepec volcano, also known as San Vicente, about 37 miles east of San Salvador.
Aviateca did not immediately release the names of the 58 passengers and seven crew members on board. The Boeing 737 was to have gone on to Managua, Nicaragua, and San Jose, Costa Rica.
Five Americans were killed, according to the Guatemalan carrier’s commercial director, Claudia Arenas. Police Inspector Jose Gomez quoted Interpol sources in Guatemala as saying there were six Americans among the dead.
Brazil’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Genaro Antonio Mucciolo, and his wife, Magdalena, were killed, said Victor Hugo Irrigaray, an official at the Brazilian Embassy in San Salvador.
Denmark’s ambassador to Nicaragua, Palle Marker, and his embassy’s first secretary, Peter Kragh, also were among the victims, the Danish Foreign Ministry said.
The cause of the crash was not known. Gladys Miranda de Valencia, the sister of pilot Axel Byron Miranda Herrera, said Aviateca told her he had reported unspecified mechanical problems a few minutes before the crash.
Aviateca spokesman Mauricio Rodriguez said it was raining “very, very hard” at the time of the crash.
Heavy fog prevented helicopters from reaching the crash site Thursday, and bad roads stopped rescue vehicles miles from the wreckage. At six miles away, the village of Tepetitan is the closest settlement to the crash site.
About 400 people were involved in the search operation, Gomez said.
Sixty bodies had been found by Thursday afternoon, Eduardo Mirroquin, Aviateca’s reservations supervisor, said in San Vicente, 37 miles east of San Salvador.