South Korean cargo plane carrying 2 crashes

July 27, 2011 - 10:43 PM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — An Asiana Airlines cargo plane carrying two people crashed into waters off South Korea's southern resort island of Jeju on Thursday, an airline official said.

The plane crashed after reporting a mechanical problem and losing contact with air traffic workers, airline official Kim Dong-won said.

Five coast guard patrol boats and a helicopter were searching the area for signs of the pilot and co-pilot, Jeju coast guard spokesman Choi Kyu-mo said. He said they have recovered part of a wing with an Asiana Airlines logo on it.

The plane had taken off from South Korea's Incheon International Airport and was bound for Pudong in China, Asian Airlines said in a statement.

Asiana officials got a report early Thursday morning from the pilot that the Boeing-747, which was southwest of Jeju, was having mechanical difficulties and would try to make its way to the island's airport, said Jason Kim, a spokesman for Asiana.

Officials then lost contact with the plane and asked the South Korean coast guard to investigate, Kim said. The airline also sent its own emergency specialists to the area.

South Korea has been lashed with extraordinarily heavy rain this week, with landslides and floods killing dozens and causing havoc. Kim said it was unclear whether the weather had caused any problems for the plane.

Coast guard officials said there was no rain in the area but stronger-than-normal wind.

North and South Korea are in a tense military standoff across their heavily armed border, but there was nothing to immediately indicate that the crash had any military connection.

Asiana Airlines was in the news last month when two South Korean marines fired rifles at an Asiana plane carrying 119 people.

South Korea's military later apologized, saying the marines mistook the plane for a North Korean military aircraft. The military said it planned to strengthen training so troops can better distinguish civilian planes. Officials said the plane wasn't in range of the rifle fire.

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Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report.