An American charter jet filled with Italian tourists slammed into a fog-covered mountain in the Azores Wednesday and exploded. All 144 people on board were feared dead, officials said.
Maria della Versesi, a spokeswoman at the Italian Embassy in Lisbon, said all 137 passengers were Italian and the seven crew members were American.The aircraft belonged to the U.S. airline Independent Air Corp., based in Smyrna, Tenn., and was bound for the Dominican Republic from Bergamo, Italy. It was to make a refueling stop in the Azores.
The Portuguese news agency LUSA quoted an official from the Azores Civil Protection Service as saying about 50 bodies had been recovered and it appeared all on board died.
AnIndependent Air Corp. spokeswoman said the plane was traveling to the Dominican Republic and was scheduled to refuel in the Azores.
LUSA also quoted an unidentified member of a local flying club as saying all the passengers and crew had been killed.
"There are no survivors from the plane," the club member said. "But there do not appear to any victims on the ground."
Afonso Pimentel, a LUSA reporter based in the Azores, said the Boeing 707 was preparing to land at Santa Maria airport when it crashed into 1,794-foot-high Pico Alto mountain and burst into flames.
LUSA quoted the official as saying the pilot asked the airport to clear a runway for an emergency landing.
Asked if there were any radio messages or warnings before the plane went down, Gualder Cordero, the airport dispatcher at Santa Maria, replied, "No, no, no, no."
The Smyrna company, which flies two Boeing 707 jets, did not release other details of the accident.
An Azores radio reporter told United Press International the weather at the time of the crash was wet but not stormy.
Tom Cole of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle said the plane that crashed was one of two 707-320Bs delivered to TWA in February and March 1968.