Britons among 70 Boeing crash victims

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The Independent Online
The third accident involving a Boeing 757 within a year appears to have killed all 70 people on board, including two British passengers. The Peruvian airliner crashed into the sea yesterday soon after take-off from the country's capital, Lima. Seven bodies were recovered by mid afternoon and there was no sign of survivors, officials said.

An AeroPeru spokeswoman said the pilot of flight 603 reported mechanical failure five minutes after the aircraft took off in heavy fog, and contact was lost 15 minutes later. The aircraft, bound for Santiago, was carrying 61 passengers and nine crew. The Peruvian transport minister, Elsa Carrera de Escalante, said tape-recordings of the pilot suggested computer failure was to blame.

Airline officials named the the two Britons as Mark Brand and Guillermo Cervetto. They said most of the passengers were from Latin America, including 30 Chileans, but there were also four from the United States, two from Italy, one from Spain and one from New Zealand.

Navy patrol boats found the wreckage of the aircraft 40 miles (65 kms) west of Ancon, Admiral Jaime Monge, head of navy rescue operations, said. The fuselage had split in half. Heavy fog was hampering efforts to locate anyone who might be alive, he said.

The Boeing 757, which first came into service in 1983, had an unblemished safety record until 20 December last year when an American Airlines 757 en route from Miami crashed into a mountain in south-west Colombia, killing all but four of the 167 people on board. A navigational error by the pilot was blamed.

Six weeks later, a Birgenair Boeing 757, carrying charter passengers to Germany, crashed into the sea soon after take-off from the Dominican Republic, killing all 189 on board. A fault in the air-speed indicator, possibly caused by birds having nested in an inlet, and pilot error was blamed for the accident.

There are 723 Boeing 757s flying in the world and the one involved in yesterday's crash was the 505th to be built. Boeing was last night sending its own investigators to assess what had gone wrong.

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