Guatemala plane crash kills 10 including Americans


GUATEMALA CITY – A small plane crashed in a field in eastern Guatemala on Sunday, killing 10 people, including five Americans, aviation and army officials said.

A Cessna Caravan 208 carrying 14 people was en route from Aurora to El Estor when the pilot started making distress calls about engine failure about 45 minutes after takeoff, said Jose Carlos, Guatemala’s director of civil aeronautics.

The air traffic tower in Guatemala City lost communication with the plane at 9:45 a.m. (1545 GMT).

The plane crashed in Zacapa, an agricultural hub about 115 km (71 miles) east of Guatemala City, killing the pilot Monica Bonilla, co-pilot Luis Fernando LanFiesta and the Americans.

Four other passengers were injured and taken to a local hospital.

“It seems like the pilot tried her best to make a safe landing in a open field, but was not successful,” said Ricardo Lemus, a Zacapa firefighter at the scene of the crash told reporters. “On impact, the aircraft was split into pieces.”

Sarah Jensen, a 19-year-old who survived the crash with minor cuts and bruises, said she and her family were headed to a village in El Estor to build homes for CHOICE Humanitarian, a group based in West Jordan, Utah.

Her brother and father were killed in the crash, and her mother had serious burns and contusions. The family is from Amory, Wisconsin, Jensen told The Associated Press in a brief interview at the hospital.

It was unclear if the other Americans were also with CHOICE Humanitarian. The group did not return calls Sunday afternoon.

Aero Ruta Maya, the airline operating the plane, said only 12 people were on the plane, including the pilots, a discrepancy that could not immediately be resolved.

Joanne de Bickford, who said she was the daughter of the airline’s owner and was helping manage the crisis, confirmed there were Americans on board. She said the airline did not know how many people died.

The army provided a list of passengers, but the names appeared to be garbled. The U.S. Embassy did not immediately return calls seeking comment.