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Plane crashes into Quito apartments

A SMALL army plane slammed into an apartment building in an upmarket neighborhood of Ecuador's mountainous capital on Thursday, killing five people aboard the aircraft and two more on the ground.

The plane grazed a house before plowing into the four-story building, sending a fireball and black smoke into the evening sky and filling a residential yard with the aircraft's wreckage.

A thick mist shrouded the Quito neighborhood at the time, though the cause of the crash was unknown. "It was horrible. I heard the plane flying very low, then I heard the explosion," neighbor Camille Avfert said. "We ran out onto the street and saw fire."

Quito fire chief Atahualpa Sanchez said emergency crews recovered the victims' badly burned bodies, while rescuers evacuated an unspecified number of injured people in stable condition. Rescuers were seen carry away a girl whose head was bloodied.

The army said three soldiers on the plane died: the pilot, a major; the co-pilot, a lieutenant; and the mechanic. In a statement, it said the pilot's wife and son were also killed.

The Red Cross reported that two more people on the ground died, including a woman identified as Elena Reascos, the mother of a nine-year-old boy.

"I was with my mother in the house when I heard something crash and there was an explosion," the boy said.

"The flames were everywhere. I couldn't get out of my room, and the firefighters rescued me."

Red Cross official Henry Ochoa told broadcaster Ecuavisa that seven bodies had been found, but "there may be another person or more underneath the fuselage."

Defense Minister Javier Ponce said the Beechcraft army plane was on a training run. It crashed about 5:30pm local time as it approached Quito's airport from Manta, 260 kilometers to the southeast.

The aircraft went down about 4 kilometers from the airport on a street where four other planes crashed during the 1990s.

Gonzalez Suarez Avenue, with luxurious buildings up to 15 stories tall, is along the path of airplanes as they prepare to land in Quito.


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