CANBERRA, Australia – Police on Sunday recovered the flight recorder from a civilian flight that went down in a rain forest, killing all 15 aboard in Australia's (search) worst civil aviation accident in almost four decades.
The twin-propeller plane, with two pilots and 13 passengers, was heading to Lockhart River (search), a remote Aboriginal community and artist colony in Queensland, when it crashed Saturday in the rain and burst into flames about seven miles from its destination, police said.
A police officer lowered to the crash site from a helicopter that could not land "confirmed there are no signs of life," state police spokeswoman Kirsten Roos told The Associated Press.
Police later found the plane's flight recorder, which was sent to a Canberra (search) laboratory for analysis, and the bodies were expected to be retrieved on Monday, she said.
The crash was Australia's worst civil aviation accident since 1968, when an MMA Viscount crashed near Port Hedland in Western Australia state, killing 26.
The burning wreckage was spotted in dense tropical rain forest from a search helicopter late Saturday afternoon.
The Fairchild Metroliner plane, operated by north Queensland-based airline Aero-Tropics crashed around noon, police said.
Police Superintendent Michael Keating said the cause of the tragedy was still a mystery.
"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 scheduled flight was en route from Bamaga, a community of 2,000 near the tip of the Cape York Peninsula, about 170 miles from Lockhart River.
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.