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Mexican plane crash kills 16 U.S. tourists

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 14, 2001

MERIDA, Mexico -- Sixteen Seattle-area tourists on a Caribbean cruise died during a side trip to visit Mayan ruins when their plane crashed in the eastern Mexican state of Yucatan. Three Mexican crew members also died.

Soldiers barred access to the accident site, but digital photographs showed the tail was the only surviving piece of the twin-engine LET 410 turboprop plane, which crashed Wednesday night.

The tourists were on a cruise aboard the Maasdam for University of Washington football fans who planned to attend Saturday's game against the University of Miami in the Orange Bowl, according to cruise operator Holland America Line. The game was postponed because of Tuesday's attacks.

A federal civil aeronautic official, Andres Perez Zentella, said the crash was an accident and discounted any connection to the terrorist hijackings of four jetliners in the United States on Tuesday. He did not release any other information about the crash.

A witness to the crash, Fausto Cob Batun, said he and about 50 others were at a nearby school when they saw the plane approach.

Cob said the plane was tilted at an angle and one of its propellers wasn't working. It crashed into a field, exploding when it hit the ground, he said.

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