Brazil's Gol Airlines Plane Missing Near Amazon, 155 Missing

A woman cries while waiting for her relative's information (AFP Photo)

Rescue teams are searching for a Brazilian GOL airline Boeing 737-800 with 155 people aboard that went missing during a flight from the Amazon jungle to Brasilia, officials said.

Authorities were trying to establish whether the airliner had collided with a Legacy executive jet whose pilot made an emergency landing Friday in Cachimbo, near the area of northern Brazil where the Boeing was reported missing.

"At this moment, we don't have any information that would indicate that the plane has either crashed or made an emergency landing," Jose Gomes Ferreira, a spokesman for Brazil's Aeronautical Command told Globo television.

Earlier, Defense Minister Waldir Pires said the Legacy was seriously damaged in what appeared to be a collision. "The collision was, presumably, with the GOL Boeing," he told Bandeirantes television.

But the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC) said there was no evidence to support that "hypothesis."

"It is not possible to state that there is a link between the incident that forced the crew (of the Legacy) to make an emergency landing at the Cachimbo airport and the disappearance of the GOL aircraft," ANAC said.

The Boeing was reported missing Friday in a densely forested area 200 kilometers south of Cochimbo.

"Landing there would be a high-risk operation, but amazing things can happen in aviation, so we keep hoping," said Jose Carlos Pereira, president of the Infraero company that runs Brazilian airports.

Officials said there were 149 passengers and six crew members aboard the GOL airliner.

Two Radiobras journalists, three aviation officials and several staffers of the Aeronautics Ministry were among the passengers, according to ANAC.

As airborne search parties searched for the missing jetliner during the night, dozens of relatives of the missing passengers and crew rushed to Brasilia's airport hoping to get information about the fate of their loved ones.

Civil aviation authorities said Flight 1907 of the GOL discount carrier was reported missing several hours after leaving the Amazonian city of Manaus on Friday, on a flight headed to Brasilia and then on to Rio de Janeiro.

Brazilian Air Force planes and helicopters headed to the crash area, using infrared equipment to look for signs of the missing jetliner, searchers waited for daylight to conduct a visual search.

Local hospitals were put on full alert.

Created in 2001, GOL is Brazil's leading discount carrier. Its 53 planes service some 50 domestic destinations as well as neighboring Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

Brazil's deadliest air accident occurred in June 1982, when 137 people were killed as a Boeing 727 of the VASP airlines crashed against a hillside as it prepared to land in the northeastern city of Fortaleza in June 1982.

The occupants of the Legacy were unharmed after the emergency landing, according to Embraer, the aircraft's Brazilian manufacturer. Local media said the plane was to be delivered to a US client.

Source: AFP

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