Brazilian plane crashes, 155 aboard missing

Updated: 2006-09-30 11:22

SAO PAULO, Brazil - A Brazilian airline passenger plane with 155 people on board disappeared over the Amazon jungle on Friday after colliding with a small plane, the company and news reports said.

A member of the staff of Brazilian airline Gol speaks on the telephone at a check-in counter in Congonhas airport in Sao Paulo September 29, 2006. A Brazilian passenger plane with 155 people on board disappeared over the Amazon jungle on Friday after colliding with a small plane, the company and news reports said. [Reuters]

The mayor of a remote town in the central state of Mato Grosso said the plane had crashed on a farm in Peixoto de Azevedo municipality. The report could not immediately be confirmed by other authorities.

Gol flight 1907, flying from the principle Amazon city of Manaus bound for the national capital Brasilia, disappeared after losing radar contact, the company said.

The head of Brazil's airports authority, Infraero, said the Gol aircraft collided with another smaller plane, Globo news agency reported.

The smaller plane, an executive jet, was able to land in a town called Serra do Cachimbo even though it suffered wing damage, Globo reported. Cachimbo is deep in the jungle about midway between Manaus and Brasilia.

Celso Gick, a spokesman in the Amazon region for Infraero, said the Boeing 737-800 was carrying 149 passengers and six crew members.

Gol said the flight had 155 passengers on board but made no mention of crew members. Brazil's civil aviation authority said the plane was transporting 155 people and lost contact around the town of Sao Felix do Xingu.

"From the information we have, the plane fell on Jarina farm," mayor Valter Mioto told Reuters. "Hospitals in the region are ready to receive the injured."

At Brasilia airport, dozens of friends and relatives, many weeping, gathered anxiously to await news.

Gol is a low-cost carrier that has expanded rapidly in recent years to become Brazil's number two airline and to offer flights to neighboring countries.

With its orange and white colors and stylized casual uniforms based on U.S. no-thrills carriers, it is an instantly recognizable brand in Brazil and one of its most successful new businesses.

Manaus is host to a number of foreign-owned manufacturing plants making motorcycles, computers and other goods in its duty free zone. It is also a base for tourism in the Amazon, the world's largest rain forest, and a headquarters for several environmental groups.

CBN radio said at least 20 passengers were employees of Yamaha Corp.

The flight left Manaus at 2:36 p.m. local time (1836 GMT) but did not arrive in Brasilia at 6:12 p.m. (2112 GMT) as scheduled, a spokesman for the Manaus airport said.

"The Air Force is in the area of the collision," Infraero President Jose Carlos Pereira, said on radio. Five air force planes were searching for the missing Gol jet.

This is the first major crash involving Gol, which was founded in 2001. In the last major airline crash in Brazil, 33 people were killed when a plane belonging to regional carrier Rico Linhas Aereas crashed in the Amazon flying from Sao Paulo de Olivenca to Manaus on May 14, 2004.