Wails of grief echoed through the airport on this French Caribbean island yesterday as people who lost family in the crash of a charter...

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LAMENTIN, Martinique — Wails of grief echoed through the airport on this French Caribbean island yesterday as people who lost family in the crash of a charter jet in Venezuela on Tuesday returned for a memorial service.

The crash of the Colombian charter jet, which killed 160 people, has devastated this island of 432,000 people, where it seems nearly everyone has some connection to the disaster. A few small towns lost dozens of people.

“We feel like we’re in the middle of a nightmare,” George Venkapaten, a Martinique farmer whose 48-year-old brother was killed with his wife and 6-year-old son.

Colombia yesterday suspended the airline from flying.

The West Caribbean Airways flight crashed after its pilot reported engine trouble en route from Panama to Martinique, which was home to all of the 152 passengers. The eight crew members, who were also killed, were from Colombia.

“It really is a huge catastrophe for us. Almost every family is concerned, be it through a relative or friends,” said Claude Lise, president of the island’s Local Assembly.

Some passengers were descendants of workers who helped build the Panama Canal a century ago, said Alina Guerrero, a spokeswoman for Panama’s Foreign Ministry. She said the group chartered the flight for a program to visit descendants of the Caribbean immigrants who worked on the canal.

Many of those on board the charter were civil servants on vacation.

Also on board were Paul Berisson, 79, and his wife, George, 70, a couple celebrating 50 years of marriage and traveling with nearly three dozen friends.

“What consoles us is that they were together to the end,” said their daughter, Giselle Berisson, 45.

Effort reported

to save Cypriot jet

ATHENS, Greece — A crew member or passenger may have made a last, desperate attempt to save a Cypriot passenger jet before it crashed into a mountainside north of Athens, killing all 121 people aboard, Greek media reported yesterday.

Investigators were trying to determine whether anything on board made the passengers and crew lose consciousness before the Helios Airways crash Sunday. They were also looking into previous reports of technical problems.

Two Greek air force F-16 jet pilots who scrambled after the Helios flight lost radio contact reported seeing someone in the cockpit take control of the plane as it flew in a descending holding pattern, apparently on autopilot, at about 37,000 feet near Athens airport.

The plane then banked away from Athens, it lowered to 2,000 feet and then climbed back up to 7,000 feet before the plane apparently ran out of fuel and crashed, state-run NET television reported, quoting unnamed Defense Ministry sources.

Relatives have said one of the flight attendants, Andreas Prodromou, 25, had a pilot’s license. But chief investigator Akrivos Tsolakis said only that someone on board other than the pilot and co-pilot was qualified to fly.

The plane went down near the village of Grammatiko, 25 miles north of Athens.