Jet crashes in the Florida swamps

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The Independent Online
US authorities sealed off a large area of the Florida Everglades outside Miami yesterday after a domestic airliner en route to Atlanta Georgia, site of the upcoming Olympic Games, crashed into the swamps with 109 people on board.

Miami International Airport sources, expressing little hope of finding survivors, said FBI and other anti-terrorism agents were combing the swamps to seek evidence of any terrorist attack against the plane. Numerous terrorist groups have threatened to disrupt the Olympics but US authorities have sought to play down the threats while enlisting thousands of troops to bolster Georgia police.

The DC-9 airliner of the small, Atlanta-based ValuJet airline, plunged into the swamps some 20 miles from Miami shortly after taking off from the city's international airport around 2pm local time (7pm BST). The airline said there were 104 passengers and five crew on board.

Drivers of local "airboats" - hydrofoils which take tourists around the swamps - said federal agents had prevented them from going to the scene in an effort to find survivors. "They said there was a danger of fuel catching fire but I think that's bullshit. They're obviously more worried about something else," said one airport driver.

Pilots of aircraft in the area said they saw the plane plunge into the Everglades, a crocodile-infested swamp visited annually by millions of tourists. "There was nothing big visible after. It looked like someone had scattered trash over the area," said trainee pilot Rick DeLisle.

Airport sources said the pilot of ValuJet flight 592 had told Miami airport control tower of smoke in the cockpit just after take-off and was returning for an emergency landing.