The World; 9 die as jet skids off Mexico runway

A cargo jet blew a tire during takeoff Thursday at the Culiacan airport and crashed through a fence into a busy intersection, killing all three people aboard and six more on the ground, authorities said.

The 43-foot Sabreliner jet operated by Jett Paqueteria skidded down Runway 20 of the Culiacan International Airport in western Sinaloa state after a right-side landing wheel was punctured at about 9:40 a.m., said Francisco Diaz, director of civil protection for Sinaloa.

The jet, carrying three people, struck a Hummer carrying two Mexican soldiers and an Oldsmobile Cutlass with a family of four, and burst into flames, Diaz said. All nine died in the blaze, said Oscar Rivera Inzunza, a state government spokesman. Five people were injured.

"All we heard was a huge roar, like when a gas pipe explodes. Smoke was coming off the plane, and it was all over the place," said Jose Luis Alvarado, an office manager working nearby.

"The jet left a lane of fire along the whole street," said a secretary who was working a block away. "I was able to see soldiers take away two burned people. They looked pretty bad."

The Mexico City-based air transport firm would not answer questions Thursday about the plane's cargo or destination.

The soldiers were part of a security team awaiting the arrival of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who was scheduled to land for a noontime speech as part of his campaign against drug violence.

Calderon's presidential jet was diverted to Guadalajara, where he had a 4 p.m. event.

"I would like to express my sincere condolences to the relatives of the civilian and military victims who lost their lives today as a result of the aviation accident," Calderon said during his speech in Guadalajara.

The airport handles an average of 20 flights an hour, with service to Mexico City, Monterrey, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the airport's website says.

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