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23 February 2024

One survivor, three killed in Panama plane crash

By Agencies


Rescue crews in Panama found an American girl on Tuesday who survived a plane crash that killed the other three people on board, including a wealthy California investor, authorities said.

The bodies of businessman Michael Klein, his 13-year-old daughter, Talia, and Panamanian pilot Edwin Lasso were found in a mountainous area of dense forest where their small plane went down on Sunday, said air authority spokesman Victor de la Hoz.

The fourth passenger, 12-year-old American Francesca Lewis, survived the crash but suffered broken bones and hypothermia, he said.

"It's a miracle the girl survived because the plane was smashed to pieces," Roberto Velasquez, head of the government civil protection agency, told Reuters. He said her condition was stable.

Lewis was being moved by land to a hospital, de la Hoz told Reuters.

Klein and the two girls were in Panama vacationing at the businessman's private island in the Gulf of Chiriqui. Klein, 37, of Santa Barbara, California, was chief executive of U.S. hedge fund Pacificor.

The group's rented Cessna airplane disappeared from radar screens on Sunday afternoon after leaving the island bound for Volcan, a mountainous coffee-growing region. The flight would normally have taken 45 minutes.

"They were supposed to be back on Christmas Eve," said Kurt Benjamin, a friend and associate of Klein.

De la Hoz said the plane went down during bad weather near the town of Las Ovejas, 210 miles (340 km) west of the capital.
Authorities have yet to establish an official cause of the crash, he said.

Fog and heavy rains had forced rescue workers to intermittently suspend their three-day search for the plane.

Klein had founded two software companies in the 1990s before heading e-mail service company eGroups, which Yahoo! purchased in 2000 for $450 million, according to the Pacificor Web site.

He purchased Pacificor in 2002. Benjamin, a vice president at the company, said that since then Klein had hosted the company's entire staff at his island. (Reuters)