LA PAZ, Bolivia – A plane carrying more than 150 people crash-landed in a bog in eastern Bolivia on Friday after fierce storms turned it away from its destination and it tried to reach another airport hundreds of miles away, according to officials and news reports. All on board survived.
Photographs by local media showed the charter Boeing 727, flown by a local airline, in a flooded forest clearing, stripped of at least one wing. A set of landing gear was in the water nearby.
"We noticed the engines went out, and there was this calm," Paolo Bravo, a Bolivian senator who was on board, told the radio network Erbol.
"Then they told us, 'Crash positions! crash positions!' and it was just another two or three seconds before we hit," he said.
"I think you could call it a belly flop," Bravo added. "The plane fell, the wings broke off, but the fuselage was OK."
Storms forced the plane to turn away from its destination in the northern city of Cobija. It then headed some 370 miles south to the eastern lowland city of Trinidad and was three miles short of the runway when the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing.
"It was the decision of the pilot to make a forced landing," said airline spokesman Gustavo Viscarra, adding that the cause of the accident was under investigation.
The airline's manager in Trinidad, Patricia Aruz, said no one was killed. Most of the passengers were taken to nearby hospitals for review and several were injured, according to Juan Carlos Zambrano, a reporter on the scene for Radio Patuju.
Viscarra said the plane was carrying 155 passengers but gave no figures for the number of crew.
But Zambrano, citing the flight engineer, said the plane had only 154 seats but was carrying 159 passengers, along with nine crew members.
The airline, known as LAB, was privatized in 1996 and has been in and out of bankruptcy in recent years. It now runs a skeleton fleet of a handful of planes on a charter basis.
LAB was operating the Boeing 727 as a charter for Transporte Aereo Militar, another small Bolivian airline. TAM has chartered LAB flights to carry overflow passengers during a heavy Bolivian rainy season that has washed out roads throughout the country.