Plane crash under investigation in Nigeria

Investigators have searched the still-smoldering wreckage of a jetliner, seeking flight-data recorders and the cause of a crash in the Nigerian bush that killed all 117 passengers and crew aboard.

Nigeria announced a three-day, nationwide mourning period for victims of the crash late Saturday of the Bellview Airlines Boeing 737-200, which plowed a deep crater into the ground near Lissa shortly after take off from Lagos airport, 30 miles to the south. The plane had been on the way from Nigeria's biggest city to its capital, Abuja.

"We can say all the people on board the aircraft perished," Information Minister Frank Nweke Jr. told state radio.

Small bits of fuselage, human flesh and clothing were strewn in a nearby copse of trees. A hand and leg lay on the ground. No identifiable bodies could be seen but the smell of death hung close.

Military helicopters first spotted the smoldering wreckage of the Nigerian-run Bellview jet on Sunday, and search teams that visited the site afterward found no survivors, said Fidelis Onyenyiri, chief of the National Civil Aviation Authority.

President Olusegun Obasanjo, grieving for his wife who died at a hospital in Spain within hours of Saturday's crash, asked "all Nigerians to pray for all those aboard the plane and their families."

It was unclear what brought down the jetliner, but it was not thought to be terrorist-related.

Initial reports indicated the plane lost contact with the Lagos control tower five minutes after taking off from Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos at 8:45 p.m. (1945 GMT) on Saturday, said Jide Ibinola, a spokesman for the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria.

State radio said pilots issued a distress call before the plane disappeared from radar.

The 50-minute flight to Abuja was a popular route among Nigerians and expatriates.

The nationalities of those aboard were not immediately known, but most were believed to be Nigerians. U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said that one American aboard the flight had been killed, but he did not identify the person.

Airline officials said 117 people were on board - 111 passengers and six crew members.

In May 2002, an EAS Airlines jet plowed into a heavily populated neighborhood after takeoff at the airport outside the northern city of Kano, killing 154 people in the plane and on the ground, the AP reports.