The pilot of the chartered plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team told air traffic controllers he had run out of fuel before crashing into the Andes, according to a leaked recording of the final minutes of the doomed flight. In the sometimes chaotic audiotape from the air traffic tower, the pilot could be heard repeatedly requesting permission to land due to a “total electric failure” and lack of fuel, before slamming into a mountainside late Monday. The recordings, accounts from survivors and the lack of an explosion upon impact all point to a rare case of fuel running out as a cause of the crash of the airliner, which experts say was flying at its maximum range.
If this is confirmed by the investigators, it would be… very painful, because it stems from negligence.
Alfredo Bocanegra, head of Colombia’s aviation agency
A representative of the Bolivian airline was quoted in the media as saying that the plane had skipped a scheduled refueling stop because the pilot thought the fuel would last. For now, authorities are avoiding singling out any one cause of the crash, which killed all but six of the 77 people on board, including members of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team traveling to the Copa Sudamericana finals. Soccer-mad Brazil declared three days of mourning. It was a bitter twist to a fairy-tale story for Chapecoense. Since 2009, the team had risen from Brazil’s fourth to its top division and was about to play the biggest match in its history in the first leg of the regional cup final in Medellín. Global soccer greats from Lionel Messi to Pele sent condolences. In the small city of Chapecó in remote southern Brazil, black and green ribbons were draped on fences, balconies and restaurant tables. Schools canceled classes, and businesses closed.