Chile air force plane with 21 aboard crashes

A Chilean air force plane with 21 people aboard, including a popular local television host, crashed in the ocean near the Juan Fernandez islands off the country's Pacific coast, authorities said.

The CASA military plane tried twice to land at the airport on the remote island but strong gusts of wind buffeted the plane and it later was lost from sight, said Felipe Paredes, a local council member who was in the airport's control tower at the time. Rescuers in boats were searching for the plane but the mayor of Juan Fernandez, Leopoldo Gonzalez, said "the accident must be accepted as a fact."

He added that some luggage had been found in the water. "The scenario facing us is particularly difficult," said Defense Minister Andres Allamand, who added that the status of the plane is still listed as "missing."

Authorities said popular Chilean television personality Felipe Camiroaga was flying to the island to do a program on the reconstruction of Juan Fernandez island following the Feb. 27 magnitude-8.8 earthquake and tsunami that wiped out its main town.

The 44-year-old TV presenter was one of five people from Television Nacional's, or TVN's, program "Good Morning Everyone" who were travelling to the island. Besides hosting the morning program, Camiroaga also hosts the popular program "Nocturnal Animal" and co-hosted the Vina del Mar music festival in 2009 and 2010.

"We are extremely upset," said TVN executive director Mauro Valdes. The remote Chilean archipelago, about 830 kilometres west of Chile's coast, is known for possibly having inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe.

Also on board was businessman Felipe Cubillos, who had been working on post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.

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