August 25, 2008 / 3:54 AM / 10 years ago

Ten killed in Guatemala small plane crash

Rescue workers inspect the wreckage of a plane crash in Aldea La Puente, Guatemala August 24, 2008. Ten people died and four others were injured when a small plane crashed in eastern Guatemala on Sunday, said local officials. REUTERS/Bomberos Municipales/Handout

GUATEMALA CITY (Reuters) - Ten people died on Sunday when a single-engine aircraft crashed in eastern Guatemala, including four U.S. citizens on a humanitarian mission and the plane’s two pilots, local officials said.

Four injured American survivors were taken by helicopter to the capital Guatemala City from the crash site in the eastern state of Zacapa, the national director of aviation said.

Sarah Jensen, 19, told Reuters that her father and brother were killed and her mother badly burned on her arms and legs.

“Ten minutes before (the crash) the engine just stopped and then we coasted. We tried to land in a field but we overshot,” Jensen said, limping across the tarmac in the capital as the other injured passengers were rushed to hospital on stretchers.

“The people on the left side of the plane were OK because there was a big door,” Jensen said. She and her family had come from Wisconsin on a mission to build houses in a village near the town of El Estor close to the Caribbean coast, she said.

All the bodies were badly burned in the crash, making it difficult for investigators to identify them immediately, but the other four dead are likely Guatemalans, the aviation director said.

The plane, operated by the commercial airline Aereo Ruta Maya, took off earlier on Sunday morning from Guatemala City with 14 people on board.

“The plane was completely destroyed,” said Guatemalan Army spokesman Jorge Ortega, adding that one of the pilots sent a distress signal to air traffic controllers shortly before the crash.

Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City

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