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75 die as airliner crashes and explodes in Uruguay

Falling like a fireball from the sky, an Argentine airliner crashed and exploded in Uruguay, killing all 75 people aboard, authorities and witnesses said Saturday. The pilot had been trying to dodge a turbulent storm.

The Austral airlines DC-9 all but disintegrated when it slammed into farmland at 11 p.m. Friday near Nuevo Berlin in eastern Uruguay. It was the deadliest crash ever involving an Argentine airliner."There were no survivors," said Juan Manuel Vazquez, secretary-general of the Argentine air force. "The plane hit the ground with a heavy impact and is scattered over a very wide area."

The crash left a crater 25 feet deep and 30 feet wide. The surrounding area was strewn with debris from the aircraft and unrecognizable human remains - mere bits of bones and flesh.

Seventy passengers and five crew members were flying from the northern Argentine city of Posadas to Buenos Aires, said Santiago Garcia, commercial manager of Austral.

Officials said most of the victims were Argentine but there were a few Uruguayans and one Swiss. Three infants were among the dead.