Six killed after plane carrying UN staff members crashes in Bolivia

May 8th, 2011 - 5:10 am ICT by BNO News  

NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) — Six people were killed on Thursday when a Bolivian Air Force plane carrying United Nations staff members crashed northeast of the capital of La Paz, the UN confirmed on Saturday.

The small Cessna 210 aircraft took off from La Paz at around 9.30 a.m. local time on Thursday for what was supposed to be a routine flight for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to monitor coca leaf production in the region. Concerns were raised when the plane did not arrive as expected at 2.30 p.m. local time.

A rescue operation was launched soon after the plane failed to arrive, and rescuers trekked for hours in thick rain forest to reach the burnt wreckage, which lay on a steep hillside deep in the jungle. The wreckage was found on early Saturday morning.

On Friday, Bolivian state-run media cited Asunta city mayor Vidal Machicado as saying that the plane had been found and that there were no casualties. “The six crew members are in a good condition and no one was hurt,” Machicado said, but his statement was later rejected by the government.

Robert Brockmann, the head of the UN Information Center (UNIC) in La Paz, said on Saturday that it had been informed by the Bolivian Air Force that there are no survivors among the two military pilots and four UNODC staff members.

Brockmann said the next of kin have been informed and that the bodies of three of those killed are due to arrive in La Paz later on Saturday. The other three victims are expected to arrive in the capital on Sunday.

The United Nations identified the four UN victims as two men and two women who all have the Bolivian nationality. The military pilots were also identified as Bolivians.

Last month, 32 people were killed when a United Nations plane crashed while landing at N’Djili International Airport in Kinshasa, the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Only one person survived the crash, but was seriously injured.

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