ASUNCION (Reuters) - Paraguay Agriculture Minister Luis Gneiting and three others died when the twin engine airplane carrying them to the capital Asuncion crashed into a wetland on Wednesday night, an official told reporters on Thursday.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the deaths of four people on a flight that had an accident,” said Joaquin Roa, the head of the National Emergency Secretariat, adding that emergency workers were currently trying to recover the bodies and that the aircraft was “totally disintegrated.”
A search and rescue team located the small aircraft on Thursday morning six kilometres (3.73 miles) from the airport in the southern city of Ayolas, where the plane took off, Luis Aguirre, head of the National Civil Aviation Directorate told Reuters.
“The remains of the plane were found in a wetland. The tip of the tail is visible and the rest of the plane is underwater,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre added that the plane was only in the air for two or three minutes and did not reach a high altitude before falling. Gneiting’s vice-minister for cattle, Vicente Ramirez, and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot also died in the crash. The pilot, Gerardo López, was a former agriculture vice-minister.
Gneiting, who took office two months ago, is a former governor of Itapua department, one of Paraguay’s main soy producing regions.
“All of Pagaguay is in mourning over this accident,” President-elect Mario Abdo, who will take office on Aug. 15, told reporters.
Reporting by Daniela Desantis; editing by Jonathan Oatis; Writing by Luc Cohen and Scott Squires; Editing by Bill Trott and Susan Thomas