Chapecoense air crash: Colombia investigates fuel link

Colombian authorities say evidence is growing that a plane carrying a Brazilian football team crashed because it ran out of fuel as it tried to land.

Civil aviation chief Alfredo Bocanegra said an initial inspection at the site indicated the plane “did not have fuel at the moment of impact”.

It appeared to corroborate a leaked tape in which the pilot can be heard requesting permission to land due to an electric failure and lack of fuel.

Only six of 77 people aboard survived.

“Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, and having been able to do an inspection of all of the remains and parts of the plane, we can affirm, clearly, that the aircraft did not have fuel at the moment of impact,” Mr Bocanegra told a news conference.

“Therefore, we have begun a process to investigate to clear up for what reason this aircraft had no fuel at the time of impact.”

Fans of Atletico Nacional soccer club pay tribute to the players of Brazilian club Chapecoense killed in the recent airplane crash, in Medellin, Colombia, September 30, 2016Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Fans gathered at the Atletico Nacional stadium in Medellin on the evening the match was due to be played

Speaking at the same news conference, civil aviation official Freddy Bonilla said regulations stipulated that aircraft must have 30 minutes of extra fuel in reserve so as to be able to reach an alternative airport in an emergency.

“In this case the plane did not have the fuel to get to an alternative airport,” he said.

He added: “The engines are the electrical source… but without fuel, obviously the electrical source would have been completely lost.”

In the leaked tape, the pilot can be heard warning of a “total electric failure” and “lack of fuel”.

Just before the tape ends, he says he is flying at an altitude of 9,000ft (2,745m).

The plane plunged into a mountainside near the Colombian city of Medellin late on Monday.

There was no explosion, which experts say could also indicate a lack of fuel.

Officials say the plane’s “black boxes”, which record flight details, will be sent to the UK to be opened by the manufacturers, the British company, BAE.

A full investigation into the crash is expected to take months.

Fans of Chapecoense pay tribute to their players at the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil November 30, 2016Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many Chapecoense fans were in tears at their stadium in Chapeco, Brazil

The Brazilian football team Chapecoense had been due to play a cup final against Atletico Nacional in Medellin on Wednesday evening.

Tens of thousands of fans instead gathered at the Medellin stadium – and at Chapecoense’s home ground in Chapeco – to pay tearful tributes.

Many wore white and carried candles as a mark of respect.

Chapecoense lost 19 players in the crash. Twenty journalists were also killed.

Of the survivors, Chapecoense said that two players remained in a critical but stable condition, while the club’s goalkeeper had had one leg amputated and might still lose his other foot.

An injured journalist also remained in critical condition, the club said.

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source: BBC