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Rescuers Have Difficult Time Reaching Site of Saturday's Kenya Air Crash - 2003-07-21

Rescuers are still working to retrieve the bodies of 12 US tourists and two South African pilots whose light charter aircraft crashed into Mount Kenya Saturday.

Heavy cloud cover Monday prevented police helicopters from retrieving the bodies of those killed from the Lenana Peak of Mount Kenya. The mountain is 112 kilometers north of Kenya's capital, Nairobi.

Senior police official Sevelino Kubai says rescuers are having a difficult time even identifying the victims, as the crash site is littered with body parts.

The director of Kenya's Civil Aviation office, Chris Kuto, says the passengers consisted of two American families who had chartered the flight from Mozambique to a lodge in northeast of Mount Kenya. It is believed that the aircraft flew over Mount Kenya as part of the sightseeing tour, as most flights do not go above Mount Kenya but west of it.

Mr. Kuto says he does not want to speculate on the cause of the crash because investigators are in the process of studying the flight tapes. But he says bad weather, poor visibility, and poor judgment were factors leading to the crash.

"There are a number of other factors you should consider," said Mr. Kuto, "like, for example, if the pilot is not familiar or he didn't do a good flight planning to know the highest point of his route, to be able to fly either higher than that or to go around."

U.S. embassy officials were on their way to the crash site Monday.

Meanwhile, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has sent his condolences to President George W. Bush and South African President Mbeki.