BANGKOK, Thailand -- An Austrian airliner enroute to Vienna with 223 passengers and crew crashed in a forest northwest of Bangkok Sunday and authorities said it appeared all aboard were killed.
The Boeing 767-300 operated by Lauda-Air, a small airline owned by former Austrian race car driver Niki Lauda, crashed into a forested hilltop 70 miles northwest of Bangkok, authorities said.
'We are finding many, many bodies. There is no sign that anyone survived,' said officer Somkuan Prinkrajan of the Dan Chang district police. He said rescue workers were too busy recovering bodies to count them.
The deaths of all on board would make the crash the 11th worst in aviation history.
An official of the Thai Aviation Department's Air Search Center said an explosion had been reported, but it was unclear whether the explosion came when the plane was in the air or when it hit the ground.
Somkuan also said there were reports the airplane was on fire before it crashed at 11:30 p.m. in Dan Chang district in Suphanburi province.
'Then once it was down there was a huge fire, like a fountain of flame,' he quoted witnesses as saying.
The nearest homes were 3 miles from the crash site, he said.
The plane, flight NG004, originated in Hong Kong and was en route from Bangkok to Vienna with 213 passengers and 10 crew aboard when it crashed, Smokuan and Lauda-Air officials said.
Boeing officials contacted at the company's headquarters in Seattle said it was the first crash of 767 since the plane was introduced in 1982. The extended range 767-300 was introduced in 1988.
Prakob Na Songkhla, Lauda-Air's manager for Thailand, said the company was in the process of assembling a passenger list. He said most passengers boarded in Hong Kong.
Passengers boarding in Bangkok included 38 Thais, 34 Austrians, seven Swiss, four German, two Yugoslavians, and one each form Hungary, England and Australia, Prakob said.
The pilot was an American identified as Thomas Welch, he said.
Lauda, a former Formula One world champion, said he would travel from Vienna to the site of the crash Monday.
He said the airplane had been in the aloft for about 15 minutes when it disappeared off the radar screens of flight contollers. The airplane would have been near its crusing altitude at that time, he said. There was no indication from the pilot that anything was wrong, he added.
The airplane had been in service for two years, he said. 'It was more or less a new airplane.'
The Air Search Center said Air Force helicopters and search teams were dispatched to the crash site.
The Boeing 767 -- operated by Lauda-Air, which is owned by Austrian race car driver Nikki Lauda -- crashed into a forest in Dan Chang district in Suphanburi province, 70 miles northwest of Bangkok, an official of the Thai Aviation Department's Air Search Center said.
Police in Dan Chang said the plane, with 213 passengers and 10 crew aboard, crashed into the forest at 11:30 p.m. Sunday shortly after a rainstorm.
'It is dark and conditions are difficult, but so far we have recovered the bodies of seven adults and one child,' said an officer at Dan Chang.
No survivors had been found, he said.NEWLN: more
He said all the rest of the police at the small station had gone to the scene of the accident.
The policeman, who declined to give his name, said the passenger list provided to the authorities showed that 38 were Thais and the rest foreigners.
An official at Lauda-Air said he was not authorized to release any information.
The flight was en route from Bangkok to Vienna.
The Air Search Center said air force helicopters and search teams were preparing to leave for the crash site.