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Plane Crash in Fiji Kills 17

July 24, 1999

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ A plane carrying 17 people slammed into a mountainside today in a remote area on Fiji’s main island, officials said. All those on board were believed killed.

The Air Fiji Bandeirante plane went down shortly after dawn in rugged, jungle-covered country in the interior of the Pacific tourist island of Viti Levu, about 40 miles northwest of the capital, Suva, police operations director Jahir Khan said.

A helicopter that reached the site today found scattered wreckage but no sign of life, said Air Fiji’s chief executive, Ken McDonald.

There were 15 passengers, including an infant, and two crew members on board, McDonald said.

The Australian foreign affairs department said five people on board were Australians. Their names would not be released until family members had been notified, a spokeswoman said, on customary condition of anonymity.

Of the others killed, one was Japanese, one Chinese, one from New Zealand and nine were Fijian, officials said.

The plane crashed some 15 minutes after taking off from the regional Nausori Airport. It was headed for Fiji’s main tourist arrival-and-departure point, Nadi International Airport.

The helicopter sent to the crash site was unable to land because of the rough terrain, Khan said.

Witnesses speaking on local radio described seeing the plane flying low overhead.

One man said he heard a boom ``like a cannonball″ and saw the aircraft’s ``wings and tail falling.″

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