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Thirteen killed, two survive in Missouri commuter plane crash

Accident occurred during landing

KIRKSVILLE, Mo. -- The bodies of five more people were found yesterday in the wreckage of a commuter plane that crashed and burned as it carried doctors and other medical professionals to a conference.

The discovery brought the death toll to 13 in Tuesday night's crash. The two survivors escaped with little more than broken bones.

''It was remarkable," said Carol Carmody, National Transportation Safety Board member, of the survivors.

The plane took off from St. Louis and went down in woods as it came in for a landing in Kirksville, a city of about 17,000.

Carmody did not release the identities of those who died in the crash, although some have been identified by family members and employers.

Authorities called it a miracle that anyone managed to survive the crash of the Jetstream 32, a 19-seat twin-engine turboprop flown by Corporate Airlines.

Rescuers found the plane's fuselage in flames, with one of its wings broken off. Most of the debris was found in a compact area of about 40-by-60 feet, Carmody said.

The two survivors, a 44-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man, suffered only broken bones and some burns, and were in fair condition yesterday.

''We see car accidents with worse injuries coming in here every week," said Dr. Charles Zeman, director of trauma services at Northeast Regional Medical Center. ''This is truly a miracle."

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Carmody said the NTSB expected to get an initial reading today from the plane's two flight data recorders.

''The black boxes are very important to the investigation, provided they're in good condition," Carmody said. ''These looked like they were. We never know until we read them out."

The crew's last communication indicated the plane was on a normal approach to the airport, with no mention of any problems, said Elizabeth Isham Cory, a Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman.

The Kirksville airport does not have an instrument landing system, a valuable tool for pilots trying to land in poor weather, said Randy Smith, president of the Kirksville Pilots Association. Such systems provide pilots with both horizontal and vertical guidance as they approach a runway; the Kirksville airport's system provides only horizontal guides.

Skies were overcast and misting, with some thunderstorms in the area, at the time of the crash.

The plane clipped treetops before crashing on private property in a wooded area between two fields. Some victims were found dead in their seats. The woman who survived was walking around when rescuers arrived, and the man was found in brush about 25 feet from the fuselage, Chief Sheriff's Deputy Larry Logston said.

Most debris was scattered about 100 feet from those treetops, Carmody said.

Many of the passengers were on their way to a conference on humanism in medicine, said Philip Slocum, dean and vice president for medical affairs at the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Two were from the New Jersey-based Arnold P. Gold Foundation, said Barbara Packer, the foundation's managing director.

''As bad as you think it's going to be, it's worse to go through it. There's been a lot of tears. It's very painful," Slocum said.

Corporate Airlines, based in Smyrna, Tenn., began operating in 1996 and is affiliated with American Airlines.

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