RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - An airplane crashed and exploded shortly after take-off from Brazil's northeastern city of Recife early on Wednesday, killing all 16 people on board, rescue and air force officials said.
The plane, operated by small regional airline Noar Linhas Aereas, plunged into scrubland near a highway after taking off at 6:51 a.m. (0951 GMT) for its planned journey to another northeastern city, Natal.
Television images of the debris showed the charred body of the plane smashed into small pieces and only the tail section partly intact.
According to a statement from Brazil's Air Force, the pilot reported mechanical problems shortly after take-off and tried to make an emergency landing on a beach.
One witness told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that he saw a woman alive in the plane after it crashed.
"I saw a woman in the window calling for help. After it exploded, there was nothing that could be done," local security guard Erandir Rodrigues da Silva was quoted as saying.
Noar, which opened its business just over a year ago and operates 278 flights a week, suspended all of its other flights on Wednesday.
The plane that crashed was a twin-engine L-410 built by LET Aircraft Industries in the Czech Republic.
(Reporting by Yukari Sekine and Stuart Grudgings)