February 6, 2005 in Nation/World

Afghan airliner’s crash site found near Kabul

N.C. Aizenman Washington Post
Associated Press photo

Afghan police officers inspect the area where a NATO helicopter spotted the wreckage of a missing Afghan plane Saturday in the mountains east of Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Full-size photo)

At a Glance

Americans were aid workers

» CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Three of the victims of a plane crash in the mountains of Afghanistan were American women who had been working to help improve the struggling nation’s public health system.

» Cristin “Cristi” Gadue, 26, Amy Lynn Niebling, 29, and Carmen Urdaneta, 32, worked for Cambridge-based Management Sciences for Health.

» ”Cristi, Amy and Carmen were vibrant, committed young women doing great work,” said Jonathan Quick, president and CEO of Management Sciences for Health. “They stood out among the people who worked with them as women of tremendous energy, of tremendous commitment, and women who cared a lot about people less fortunate.”

» Gadue had been working in Kabul since September 2003. Niebling and Urdaneta were on a three-week visit to Afghanistan and had been scheduled to return to Cambridge this weekend.

» ”To have women who are that passionate about their work is inspirational,” said Stacey Irwin Downey, a senior program officer at the company.

KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO helicopters found the wreckage of a missing Afghan airliner in a mountainous area southeast of Kabul on Saturday, officials announced. Hundreds of Afghan, U.S. and other international forces had searched for the airliner for the past two days.

Officials said they did not expect to find any survivors among the 104 people on board, which would make the crash the worst air accident in the country’s history.

The Kam Air Boeing 737-200, which was en route from Herat in western Afghanistan, disappeared from radar screens Thursday afternoon as it approached Kabul airport during a snowstorm. Eight crew members and 96 passengers were on board.

The passengers included three American aid workers: Cristin Gadue, 26, of Burlington, Vt.; Amy Lynn Niebling, 29, of Omaha, Neb.; and Carmen Urdaneta, 32, who was born in Venezuela and raised in Kansas. All three were employees of Management Sciences for Health, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit organization that funds clinics in Afghanistan.

Wire services reported that at least 21 foreigners were on the flight, including two Italian civilians and a navy captain, nine Turkish nationals and six Russians who were members of the crew. Six Americans were believed to have been on board, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said, double the number previously reported.

Officials of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said they had airlifted mountain rescue teams Saturday to secure the crash site, about 20 miles southeast of the capital.

The circumstances of the crash remained unclear Saturday.

Snow has continued to fall in Kabul over the past two days, and the search operation was repeatedly interrupted Friday and Saturday by fog that enveloped the mountains that ring the capital.

Kam Air, the country’s only private airline, began operating in November 2003, flying leased aircraft between Kabul, Dubai and Istanbul, and along several domestic routes.

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