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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Columbian Girl Sole Crash Survivor

CARTAGENA, Colombia -- A nine-year-old girl made what officials described Thursday as a miraculous escape from a plane crash which killed all the other 51 people aboard.


Aviation authorities said Erica Delgado was the only survivor from Wednesday's crash of an Intercontinental de Aviacion DC9 into a swamp in northern Colombia. The plane crashed minutes before it was due to land in the Caribbean resort of Cartagena on a flight from Bogota.


Arturo Ramos, a peasant who helped rescue the girl, said he saw a huge explosion and flames and first thought a bomb had exploded.


"When we got near we heard a sob so we took off our clothes and went to see what it was," he said in a radio interview, explaining how they rescued the girl from the swamp. "It was the girl. We got her out and took her to the village."


Civil Aviation Authority director Alvaro Raad confirmed that the girl had survived the fiery crash but said the other 51 passengers and crew had all died. All those aboard were Colombians, he added.


"For those of us who know anything about aviation it is practically a miracle for us, a miracle of God (to have) a survivor from an explosion on an airplane like this one," he said.


Ambulance workers evacuated Erica to Cartagena's University Hospital where doctors were treating her for fractures in her arm and pelvis.


Luis Oviedo, one of the doctors looking after her, said that she was still in intensive care in deep shock but was out of danger. Witnesses said the girl constantly asked about the fate of her parents and young brother who were aboard the doomed plane.


Raad said it was still too early to know why the plane plunged 14,000 feet (4,300 meters) to the ground shortly after requesting permission to descend prior to landing. The pilot, a veteran, had not reported any problems.


Aviation officials said they hoped the plane's "black box" flight and cockpit voice recorders would provide clues as to why the plane suddenly encountered problems.


There was confusion about whether the plane exploded in mid-flight and then fell to the ground or whether it crashed on landing.


The Civil Aviation Authority quoted the pilot of a plane following the DC9 as saying he saw it explode in mid-air but peasants who witnessed the crash spoke of a detonation as the aircraft hit the ground.


Rescue teams paddled canoes across the swamp near the town of Maria La Baja, 550 kilometers north of Bogota, searching for wreckage.


Caracol Radio quoted local forensic officials as saying that 16 bodies had been recovered and taken to Cartagena for identification.


Radio stations appealed to families of the victims, many of whom were waiting for news at Bogota and Cartagena airports, for dental records of their loved ones to facilitate identification of the mangled remains.