MEXICO CITY (AP) — The government of the tiny Central American country of Belize said its acting prime minister is safe after the small prop plane he was riding in crashed into the sea after takeoff on Friday.
A Tropic Air flight carrying Acting Prime Minister Patrick Faber and the country's agriculture minister was taking off from the tiny airstrip in the town of Placencia Friday when one of the wheels on its landing gear clipped a passing car.
A road passes near the end of the airstrip and a barrier is usually lowered to stop traffic during takeoffs and landings.
The government said in a statement that "the left landing wheel made contact with a passing vehicle that had managed to bypass one of the lowered barriers."
All seven people aboard were rescued without any significant injuries. Photos distributed by the government showed passengers and crew in crystal clear, shallow water near the semi-submerged plane, some wearing inflatable life vests and chatting calmly.
Tropic Air operates a fleet of single-engine propeller planes.
The firm said in a statement that "the Belize Airports Authority had placed barriers and signage in place at the Placencia airstrip to prevent just such an occurrence."
"In the wake of what has happened, Tropic Air in coordination with the Belize Airports Authority and the Belize Department of Civil Aviation, are looking at how this vehicle passed in front of the departing aircraft, and what measures need to be implemented immediately to prevent another such occurrence."
The country has less than 400,000 inhabitants. Placencia, where the accident occurred, is a quiet Caribbean beach community.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow took a personal leave of absence on Nov. 16 to travel to Houston, Texas.