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Caribbean plane crash kills 20

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ST. MAARTEN, Guadeloupe -- Twenty people, many of them French tourists, were killed Saturday when a plane attempting to land on the Caribbean island of St. Barthelemy crashed into a house.

Police spokesman Lt. Herve Siffre said all 17 passengers and two crew members on the Twin Otter Air Caraibes plane had been killed, along with one person in the house. Another person in the house was injured, he said.

Air Caraibes CEO Philippe Chevallier said 15 of the passengers were French tourists from Paris, and two were local residents.

Georges Alexandre, local manager for Air Caraibes, which based in Guadeloupe, said one of those onboard was American.

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Chevallier said the plane's flight recorders had been recovered and would be examined for more information on the crash.

He said the plane took off from Juliana Airport on St. Maarten at 4 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) and had been due to land at 4:15 p.m. on the island.

At 4:18 p.m., he said, it went down not far from the airport as it was beginning its descent. He said the wind and weather were not a factor in the crash.

Another official said the plane crash was due to mechanical failure. Police said an investigation into the crash would be launched.

French President Jacques Chirac sent a message of condolences to the families of the dead.

A Web site for St. Barthelemy says that landing on the island can be difficult. "The airstrip in St. Barthelemy is small, and pilots are required to have special training to land. For many, the landing, especially on a windy day, is an adventure in itself." the Web site says.

St. Barthelemy is a French territory in the north-eastern corner of the Caribbean, 125 miles (201 kilometers) east of Puerto Rico, and 15 miles southeast of St. Maarten.

It is little more than eight square miles and is a popular holiday resort for French tourists.

The Associated Press & Reuters contributed to this report.



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