Plane crashes with 51 aboard in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela - September 13, 2010

The French-built ATR 42 from the state airline Conviasa slammed into a lot used by the state-run Sidor steel foundry, leaving its smashed and partly scorched fuselage among barrels and shipping containers.

At least 14 people were killed and four others were missing after the crash about six miles (10 kilometers) from the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state Gov. Francisco Rangel Gomez told reporters.

Steel plant worker Oscar Crespo said he heard the thunderous noise of the impact and found the plane in flames.

"I was one of the first who got there to help," Crespo told state television. "We brought some of the injured into an office to treat them. While I was taking people out, Sidor's firefighters arrived to help us."

While he was helping some of the survivors from the wreckage in thick smoke, Crespo said, he heard some children among the passengers telling how they had looked out the windows and had seen they were "flying very low" before the crash.

It was unclear what caused the crash.

The governor said 33 people survived and were being treated at hospitals.

The plane, a twin-engine turboprop, was carrying 47 passengers and four crew members, Rangel Gomez said.

He said that Conviasa Flight 2350 had taken off from Margarita Island - a Caribbean island that is one of Venezuela's top tourist destinations - and crashed shortly before reaching its destination, the airport of Puerto Ordaz.

The state airline, Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronauticas y Servicios Aeros SA, began operations in 2004. It says it serves destinations in Venezuela, the Caribbean, Argentina, Iran and Syria.

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