Bolivian plane lands in forest

February 1, 2008 12:44:39 PM PST
A charter jet flown by airline Lloyd Aereo Boliviano was forced to make an emergency landing Friday in a flooded forest outside the eastern lowland city of Trinidad. No one was killed, according to the airline's regional manager in Trinidad, Patricia Aruz. But several passengers were taken to a nearby hospital for injuries, according to Juan Carlos Zambrano, a reporter at the scene for Radio Patuju.

Passengers interviewed by local radio stations said the plane first lost power and suffered serious damage when it landed.

"We noticed the engines went out, and there was this calm," said Paolo Bravo, a Bolivian senator who survived the crash, in an interview with the radio network Erbol.

"Then they told us, 'Crash positions! crash positions!' and it was just another two or three seconds before we hit ...

"The plane fell, the wings broke off, but the fuselage was OK," he said.

The Boeing 727 was turned away by fierce storms at its destination - the northern city of Cobija - and then headed south to Trinidad, some 370 miles away. The plane then lost power a few miles short of the runway.

LAB, Bolivia's former state airline, was privatized in 1996 but has been in and out of bankruptcy in recent years. The company now runs a skeleton fleet of only a handful of planes on a charter basis only.

LAB was operating the Boeing 727 as a charter for Transporte Aereo Militar, another small Bolivian airline. In recent months TAM has chartered LAB flights to carry overflow passengers during a heavy Bolivian rainy season that has washed out roads throughout the country.