Chile air force plane with 21 aboard crashes

September 2, 2011 - 8:05 PM

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A Chilean air force plane with 21 people aboard, including a popular local television host, crashed Friday in the Juan Fernandez islands off the country's Pacific coast, authorities said.

Juan Fernandez Mayor Leopoldo Gonzalez said the plane tried without success to land at the Juan Fernandez island airport, which is 830 kilometers (515 miles) from Chile's coast.

"The accident must be accepted as a fact," Gonzalez said from the island in an interview with Television Nacional de Chile.

Rescue boats were searching for the wreckage of the plane but so far they have only found some equipment, the mayor said.

Defense Minister Andres Allamand said searchers faced "particularly adverse" conditions, adding that the plane's status was still listed as missing.

Felipe Camiroaga, one of Chile's most popular television presenters, was on the flight, Gonzalez said.

Camiroaga, 44, worked for the state TV channel's "Good Morning Everyone" program, and was traveling to the Juan Fernandez for a story on the reconstruction of the island following the Feb. 27 magnitude-8.8 earthquake and tsunami that wiped out its main town.

Also on board was businessman Felipe Cubillos, who had been working on post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.

The CASA air force plane took off from the capital, Santiago, at 2 p.m. local time (1700 GMT), and lost contact with air control almost four hours later, according to a statement from aviation authorities.