No sign of survivors from Brazil jet crash

 

Military searchers parachuted down yesterday to the wreckage of a Brazilian passenger plane that crashed a day earlier in remote Amazon jungle with 155 people on board.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said there was no sign of survivors. The brand-new Boeing 737-800 operated by Brazilian low-cost carrier Gol probably plunged into the ground nose first after it clipped a smaller executive jet, the head of Brazil's airport authority Infraero said.

If the death toll is confirmed, it will be the worst aviation accident in Brazil's history. Brazil's military suspended the search and rescue mission as dusk set in the thick forested area and will resume it Sunday morning. "At night in the Amazon you can't see beyond a foot in front of you," said Brigadier Antonio Gomes Leite Filho of Brazil's air force at a news conference.

Earlier in the day, the two soldiers who rappelled from a helicopter into the area were cutting down dense jungle to make a helicopter landing area and authorities had recruited Indian trackers to find a path to the remote jungle crash site for relief teams.

Previously, a statement by authorities implied that the soldiers had parachuted into the area. "All rational logic shows there is a high probability that a collision occurred," Infraero head Brigadier Jose Carlos Pereira told reporters.

The small size of the wreckage area indicated that the chances of survivors among the 149 passengers and six crew members on board were slim. Gol officials said there were 113 men and 42 women on board, including an 11-month-old boy and four children. The airline said there were only about half a dozen foreigners on the flight, though the company didn't disclose their nationalities.

"Imagine the velocity at which it hit the ground coming from an altitude of 36,000 feet (11,000 meters)," Pereira told reporters. "It's very unlikely that there will be survivors." Authorities lost radar contact with Gol flight 1907 on Friday afternoon during its journey from the principal Amazon city of Manaus to the capital Brasilia, the airline said.

Search planes found the crash site in Mato Grosso state, about 600 miles (1,000 km) northwest of Brasilia.