Former head of Brazilian miner Vale dies in plane crash

SAO PAULO - Roger Agnelli, the former head of Brazilian mining giant Vale, died along with six other people including his wife and children when a small plane crashed into a residential building in Sao Paulo, officials said.

Agnelli, 56, was flying to Rio de Janeiro Saturday (March 19) with his family when their plane went down shortly after take-off, officials said.

The state emergency service said the crash instantly killed all seven people on board - Agnelli, his wife, their two children, their children's spouses and the pilot.

"We are searching for other possible victims. The owner of the residence was rescued," the emergency service said in a statement.

Agnelli was famous as a bold and hard-driving chief executive who turned Vale into the world's top iron ore producer.

News of his death stunned Brazil.

"It is with great sadness that I learned of the death of businessman Roger Agnelli and (his family)," said President Dilma Rousseff, praising the CEO's "extraordinary business vision." Opposition leader Aecio Neves said he was "shocked by the tragedy that befell my friend," and former minister and presidential candidate Jose Serra said he was "profoundly saddened." The National Civil Aviation Administration said the plane was registered to Agnelli.

Rescuers and police rushed to control a fire that broke out at the property, located near the Campo de Marte airport, which is mainly used by air taxis and pilot schools.

Agnelli took over Vale in 2001 and led the company until 2011, turning it into a world leader just as a booming China's ravenous demand for raw materials sent commodity prices soaring.

He undertook a campaign to expand and modernize the company, which registered record profits of $22.9 billion in his last year at the helm.

Since his departure, the company's fortunes have turned.

The group posted a net loss of $12.1 billion last year on sliding commodity prices and the catastrophic rupture of a dam at a mine it co-owns with Anglo-Australian firm BHP Billiton.

The subsidiary that operates the mine settled with the government earlier this month for $6.2 billion in damages for the accident, which killed 19 people.