AGADIR, Morocco -- A chartered Boeing 707 Jetliner carrying Moroccan immigrant workers home from France to their families for the summer holidays crashed into a mountainside in heavy fog early Sunday, killing all 188 persons aboard, authorities said.
It was the third worst air disaster In civil aviation history.
The four-englned Jet plane slammed into a mountainside, exploded and burned near the tiny, remote village of Imzizen two minutes before it was expected to land at the airport of this Atlantic coastal city in southern Morocco. An airport official reported having a normal radio conversation with the pilot with no hint of trouble Just moments before the crash.
THE PLANE, owned by the Jordanian airline Alia and chartered to the Moroccan airline Royal Air Maroc, left Paris' Le Bourget airport at 2:20 a.m.
Officials said passengers included 177 Moroccan workers in France and four Europeans.
A Royal Air Maroc spokesman in Paris said the four Europeans aboard the ill-fated plane were British and all seven flight crew members were Jordanians.
In Agadir, officials said It was the first time the pilot had flown to Morocco.
Aviation sources said the pilot was on the wrong axis in his approach to Agadir airport.
"If he had been on the proper axis, there would not have been a mountain in front of him," an aviation source said.
Inhabitants of Imzizen, 30 miles northeast of Agadir, had to walk 12 miles over the mountainous terrain to reach a telephone and alert authorities.
RESCUE TEAMS finally arrived by helicopter after searching for hours In the thick fog for the wreckage. They found shattered pieces of the plane scattered over a wide area.
The surrounding forest was burned by a fire that followed the plane's explosion. The crash impact was so great that rescuers could find no piece of wreckage bigger than 10 square feet, Moroccan authorities said.
The plane disappeared from Agadir airport control tower radar screens at 4:28 a.m., airport officials said.
"It was supposed to arrive at 4:30," one control tower officer said. "The pilot contacted us and we had a conversation as the plane was making its approach. Then we suddenly lost contact."
The worst previous disaster in civil aviation history occurred in March, 1974, when a Turkish DC 10 crashed outside Paris, killing 346 persons. The second worst disaster was the crash last December in Sri Lanka that killed 191 persons. Until Sunday's crash, the third worst disasters were a crash in Nigeria in January, 1973, that killed 176 persons and one in Krasnaya Polyana, In the Soviet Union, in October, 1972, that also killed 176 persons.