Thai official says plane crash in Laos kills 44

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BANGKOK — A Laos Airlines flight crashed Wednesday in the Southeast Asian country, killing all 44 people aboard, an official in neighboring Thailand said.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said the flight from the Lao capital of Vientiane to Pakse in southern Laos crashed at about 4 p.m. Lao time.

He said the flight crashed 7-8 kilometers (4-5 miles) short of the international airport at Pakse. Reports by China's official Xinhua News Agency and Thai media said the plane crashed in the Mekong River.

Sek said five Thai nationals were among the 39 passengers. Five crew members were also aboard.

Calls to Lao government officials and airline offices seeking further details went unanswered. Laos has a less developed infrastructure and tourist industry than its bigger neighbors and communications are sometimes difficult.

The airline flies an ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop plane on the 467-kilometer (290-mile) route.