Australian Plane Crash Kills 15

An airplane carrying 15 people slammed into a hillside in remote northeastern Australia (search) on Saturday, killing everyone on board in the country's worst civil aviation disaster since 1968.

A recovery operation was underway Sunday on a rugged hillside in Queensland (search) state where the twin-propellor plane went down in rainy conditions Saturday and burst into flames

"We've just had a police officer winched in who has confirmed there are no signs of life," state police spokeswoman Kirsten Roos told The Associated Press.

Just before the crash, the scheduled Aero-Tropics flight had radioed that the plane was about to land, said police Superintendent Michael Keating.

"The weather may be a factor; we just don't know at this stage what the cause of this incident is," Keating told Seven Network television.

The Fairchild Metroliner plane (search), with two pilots and 13 passengers, was heading to Lockhart River, an Aboriginal community of 350 people in Queensland. The plane was en route from Bamaga, near the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, about 170 miles from Lockhart River.

The crash was Australia's worst air disaster since two army Black Hawk helicopters collided near the Queensland city of Townsville, killing 18 people in 1996. It was also Australia's worst civil air crash since 1968, when a plane crashed near Port Hedland in western Australia, killing 26.

Lockhart River is a former Anglican mission where Aborigines from across Cape York were placed in the 1920s until the outbreak of World War II, when they were told to return to their ancestral lands.

The mission was re-established as a community for Aborigines in 1947 and the church handed it to the Queensland government in 1964.

In recent years, the tiny township has become known as the home of a critically acclaimed group of Aboriginal artists known as the Lockhart River Gang whose works sell for tens of thousands of dollars.