SANTIAGO – Chile’s Navy found victims of the plane crash involving a C-130 Hercules that disappeared on Dec. 9. The plane with 38 crew and passengers aboard went missing on its way from Punta Arenas to Antarctica. All findings are still being analyzed.
Late on Dec. 11, Navy vessel Marinero Fuentealba found human remains that could be victims of the tragedy, according to news outlet BioBioChile. As the search then intensified, the plane was found, Air Force commander Arturo Merino said during a press conference.
The Air Force has not yet released details because the findings are still being analyzed, but Merino said “it is practically impossible to find survivors.”
— Fuerza Aérea de Chile (@FACh_Chile) December 12, 2019
On Dec. 11, the Antarctic Endeavour vessel found pieces of sponge floating in Drake Passage, nearly 30 km south from where the C-130 disappeared. In a later release, the Air Force confirmed that the pieces came from the plane’s fuel tank.
The sponge pieces were found in waters with depths of over 3,000 m, which means “the rest of the plane could already have sunk to the bottom of the sea,” former president of the aerial federation, Tito Lorenzo Muño, told CNN.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro also said via Twitter on Dec. 11 that Brazilian search ships found items 518 km off the coast Ushuaia, Argentina, that could be belongings of the victims. Bolsonaro also said that Brazilian vessel crews were coordinating with the Chileans and providing support.
As the findings went public, victims’ families traveled to Punta Arenas on Dec. 11 to receive further information. Ximena Hartsock, sister-in-law of one of the possible victims, wrote on Twitter that “we no longer have hope to find survivors. These are very hard moments for us.”
Nuestras familias han sido informadas que han encontrado partes de cuerpos humanos en el mar. Ya no tenemos esperanzas de sobrevivientes. Momentos muy duros para nosotros que espero den perspectiva y unan al país en honor a las víctimas. My cuñado descansa en paz. #C130 #Hercules
— Ximena Hartsock (@ximenahartsock) December 12, 2019
In August 2019, US Air Mobility Command (AMC) General Maryanne Miller prohibited over 100 C-130 Hercules units from flying because unusual cracks appeared in their wings, Military.com reported.
This information caused a stir in Chile, as the plane that crashed had been bought from the US in 2015.
But Air Force commander Merino assured that all C-130 models underwent inspection in line with AMC regulations and no failures were detected.
The plane was last spotted while crossing the ocean toward Antarctica on Dec. 9 at 6:17 p.m.
After contact was abruptly lost, Chilean search efforts – joined by Uruguay and Brazil – started.
By 1:15 a.m., authorities said the plane has probably crashed, as it had only enough fuel to remain in air until around midnight.
Magallanes region prosecutor Eugenio Campos swiftly opened an investigation, which was supported by the Investigations Police (PDI) and the Legal Medical Service (SML), according to El Dínamo.
Merino highlighted the participation of 23 air units, four ships, and eight international units, which included satellite-supported search.
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.