The Chilean Air Force said that authorities have ruled out the possibility of finding any survivors from the crash of an Antarctica-bound military plane with 38 people onboard. A day after the first floating debris from the plane was located in the Drake Passage, Commander-in-Chief Arturo Merino on Thursday confirmed that the search also had led to the discovery of human remains and said forensic analysis would determine if they corresponded to the plane's passengers, reports Efe news.
The Governor of Chile's southernmost region of Magallanes, Jose Fernandez, said on Wednesday that human remains had been found in the area where the plane was located when it disappeared from radar screens. The conditions of the infamously choppy Drake Passage - a body of water between Chile's Cape Horn and Antarctica's South Shetland Islands - have led authorities to conclude that it is "practically impossible for there to be any survivors of this air accident", Merino said.
"Along with the plane parts that continue to be found ... remains of human beings also have been located that very likely" are those of the people who were travelling aboard the crashed plane, he added. Merino said the search will continue if debris or human remains continue to be found even though the normal time frame is six days (Thursday is the fourth day), extendable to 10 days.
The Hercules C-130 aircraft took off at 4.53 p.m. on Monday from the Chabunco air base in Punta Arenas, Magallanes' capital, for a scheduled two-and-a-half-hour flight to Chile's Antarctic base of Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva. Air force controllers lost contact with the aircraft at 6.13 p.m., when it was about 500 km from its destination.
The first wreckage of the aircraft was found on Wednesday by the Brazilian navy research ship Almirante Maximiano, which has been assisting in the search operations. The plane was carrying 32 Chilean air force personnel, three army soldiers and three civilians: two employees of Chilean construction and engineering company Inproser and a student at the University of Magallanes.
The personnel on board had a mission to carry out maintenance work at the Frei Montalva base and inspect a floating pipeline that supplies fuel to that facility. This week's crash was Chile's worst aviation accident since 2011, when a plane carrying relief supplies to the Juan Fernandez Islands crashed with 21 people on board.