Passenger plane crashed in Venezuela with 152 passengers aboard

A passenger plane crashed in remote western Venezuela with 152 passengers aboard early Tuesday, an aviation official said. It was unclear whether anyone survived. The West Caribbean Airways plane was headed from Panama to Martinique before dawn when its pilot reported engine trouble to the Caracas airport, said Francisco Paz, president of the National Aviation Institute.

Airport authorities lost radio contact with the plane later in the area of Machiques, in the western state of Zulia, he said. "Residents in the area said they heard an explosion," Paz said. "Air rescue teams are traveling to the area right now by air and by land."

He said the pilot reported trouble with both engines to the Caracas air control tower just after 3 a.m. (0700 GMT), and authorities lost contact with the plane roughly 10 minutes later. The plane had been chartered for tourists, and 152 passengers were listed on the flight plan, Paz said. It wasn't immediately clear how many crew members accompanied them.

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