RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Emergency workers on Saturday recovered the flight-data recorder and the bodies of 19 people who died when their plane exploded on impact in a crash in a mountainous region outside Rio de Janeiro.
Remains of the victims were brought to the city's morgue for identification. Only four people had been identified by Saturday night, said Roger Ancillotti, the morgue director.
"Most bodies are beyond recognition," he said.
The LET 410 double-propeller plane owned by the local airline TEAM, which was carrying 17 passengers and two crew, crashed Friday night in a remote area near Saquarema, some 60 miles east of Rio. The cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Four employees from Brazil's state-owned energy company Petrobras were among the victims, airline director David Faria said, adding that none were high-ranking officials.
Authorities said that there could have been light rain and fog when the Czech-made plane crashed.
The aircraft disappeared from radar about 20 minutes after leaving the city of Macae, 110 miles east of Rio de Janeiro, said Roni Alberto de Azevedo, a spokesman with the Rio de Janeiro State Civil Defense Department.
"I heard a weird noise, and then a very loud noise, like a bomb exploding," Jose Carlos da Costa, who lives near the crash site, told GloboNews.
Officials from Brazil's federal aviation authority said the plane's "black box" with flight-data and cockpit voice recorders had been found.
Authorities said workers had to walk through dense forest to the scene, finding the wreckage nearly 10 hours after the plane crashed.
"All 19 bodies have been found, but the plane exploded on impact and several of the victims' have been badly burned," said Carlos Alberto de Carvalho, secretary of Rio's Civil Defense Department. "We will probably need to conduct DNA exams to identify them."
Another TEAM director, Mauro Almeida, said it was the airline's first accident since it began operating in 2001. He said the pilot, Brazilian Michael Peter Hutten, had about 30 years of experience and was a former air force pilot.
"He was flying this same route for five years," Hutten's wife, Soraya, told GloboNews TV.
Faria said the aircraft was at least five years old and had recently gone through a two-month routine maintenance check. It also had been inspected by the federal aviation authority before being allowed to fly, he said.