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13 killed in Papua New Guinea plane crash

SYDNEY — All 13 people on board a chartered plane that crashed en route to a tourist region of Papua New Guinea are dead, Australia's prime minister said Wednesday.

Papua New Guinea officials informed Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith that no survivors were found in the wreckage, which had been discovered in the rugged Kokoda region earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told parliament.

The plane, carrying 11 passengers and two crew, vanished Tuesday morning in bad weather on approach to an airport nestled in the Kokoda region. Nine Australians, one Japanese and three Papua New Guineans were on board. Two of the Australians killed in the crash were a father and a daughter, Rudd said.

"There is a horrible tragedy involved when families send off their loved ones for what they expect to be the experience of a lifetime, only for it to turn into a tragedy such as this," Rudd said.

The twin-engine plane left the capital of Port Moresby en route to an airport near the Pacific island nation's Kokoda Track, a mountainous 60-mile (100-kilometer) trail. The plane's crew radioed air traffic controllers as it was approaching the airstrip, but the aircraft never landed, said Allen Tyson, a spokesman for Airlines PNG.

Eight Australian tourists and an Australian tour guide had planned to walk the trail as part of a trek organized by the adventure tour company No Roads Expeditions, the company said in a statement. Another guide from Papua New Guinea also was on board, the company said.

Smith said the wreckage was located at an altitude of 5,500 feet (1,676 meters) and weather conditions were deteriorating again, making rescuers' attempts to reach the aircraft by helicopter and on foot very difficult.