3 Sep 2011

21 feared dead as Chilean plane goes down

3:31 pm on 3 September 2011

A Chilean air force plane carrying 21 people has disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on its way to the remote Juan Fernandez islands, the government says.

Defence Minister Andres Allamand says the Casa-212 plane twice tried to land at the islands' airport before going missing.

The islands' mayor says conditions were rough and windy, and remains of the plane as well as passengers' clothing and luggage have been spotted in the water about a kilometre from the landing strip.

The BBC reports that a television crew were on board.

They were on their way to the islands to report on the aftermath of last year's earthquake and tsunami.

Mr Allamand says a navy frigate has been sent with a helicopter to carry out search and rescue work, and that a Hercules 130 plane is about to join the search.

The Juan Fernandez islands, about 600 kilometres west of the Chilean capital, Santiago, are famous for having been the home for four years in the early 18th century of the shipwrecked sailor Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.