|Chilean navy ship and locals search for bodies and aircraft wreckage near Juan Fernandez Islands [Reuters]
Rescuers and fishermen have discovered four bodies in the Pacific Ocean after a Chilean air force plane crashed, most likely killing all 21 people on board, authorities said.
"After a search involving the commander in chief of the FACh [Chilean air force] the conclusion has been reached that the impact was so powerful it would have led to the instant death of those on board the plane,'' said Andres Allamand, the defence minister.
The plane disappeared on its way to a remote archipelago, the military said.
Earlier on Saturday, Chilean officials said the bodies of two women and two men were recovered by searchers or fishermen. Searchers said they had also found pieces of the plane's wreckage.
"So far we have found two female bodies and two male bodies," Air Force chief Maximiliano Larraechea said. "In none of the cases have they been identified."
The airplane suffered "a violent accident that surely no person could survive," he said.
A major search operation was launched late on Friday in the waters around the Juan Fernandez islands, some 700km from the South American coastline, and some debris from the missing plane has been located in the sea.
Allamand said the plane, a turboprop-powered Casa 212, made two attempts to land on the main island but failed, "after which contact was lost" as heavy winds and sporadic rains hit the area.
The air force had earlier said that as the aircraft was "getting closer to the island, radio communication with the plane was lost," prompting a search effort to be launched by Chile's navy and air force.
Among those onboard was popular Chilean television host Felipe Camiroaga, who was part of a crew from TVN who were heading to the archipelago to report on how it was rebuilding after being hit by a tsunami following a huge February 2010 earthquake.
Tributes poured in from across the continent for the victims, including the well-liked TV personality.
The burial of former president Salvador Allende, planned for Sunday, was postponed due to the crash, with the late leader's foundation saying it would be held at a later date.
Allende's remains had been exhumed and examined in a bid to unravel mysteries surrounding his demise amid the 1973 coup. Experts concluded he had committed suicide, and was not murdered as some had alleged.