Los 21

Chile mourns 21 lost in tragic Juan Fernández plane crash

TV stars, Air Force officers and earthquake reconstruction workers among those who lost their lives.

martes, 06 de septiembre de 2011  
Con más de 20 años de trayectoria en la televisión, el presentador Felipe Camiroaga era uno de los más reconocidos de Chile.

Last year, the world celebrated with Chile as “Los 33”, the miners trapped in a terrifying accident in the Atacama Desert, were found alive and brought painstakingly back to safety.

But for “Los 21” lost in the tragic plane crash this weekend over the Juan Fernández archipelago, there was to be no happy ending.

At 5:48 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 2, a Chilean Air Force plane heading for Juan Fernández lost radio contact with bases as it made repeated attempts to land on the island.

Authorities were forced to assume the plane had crashed, and a frantic search began for remains of the craft – and for the 21 people on board.

Shock waves reverberated around Chile as it was announced that the plane had been carrying well-known reporters and producers from Chile’s National Television station (TVN). They included the popular "Buenos Días a Todos" morning show presenter Felipe Camiroaga, as well as reporters Roberto Bruce and Sylvia Slier and producers Rodrigo Cabezón and Carolina Gatica.

Also on the plane were the five-person crew, representatives from the Chilean Council for Culture and the Chilean Air Force, and staff from earthquake reconstruction organization Desafío Levantemos Chile.

Moving scenes unfolded as news reporters from TVN covered the ongoing search operation through tears, hoping against hope that their colleagues might be found alive. But at 7:20 a.m. on Saturday morning, hope began to fade as rescue teams discovered the first body, a woman.

Three further bodies were recovered as the morning wore on – two men and another woman – and in the afternoon, Chile’s Minister of Defense, Andrés Allamand, stated that there was no longer any hope of finding people alive. “The passengers died instantly,” he said.

The search for remains continues but authorities believe the plane may have disintegrated on impact, and recovery teams have not found any more bodies.

Minister Allamand said: “We will continue to make all possible efforts to find the bodies of those who died, but we have to consider the possibility that there are some we may not find.”

In honor of the victims, President Sebastián Piñera declared two days of national mourning, Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 September. “The country is in a state of deep sorrow and pain,” he said, adding that the people of Chile have reacted with “unity, solidarity, integrity and genuine grief.”

On Monday, Chilean flags were hung at half-mast.

The 21 victims were:

Crew: Lieutenant Carolina Fernández (pilot), Second Corporal Flavio Olivo, Lieutenant Juan Pablo Mallea, First Sergeant Eduardo Jones, First Corporal Eduardo Estrada and First Corporal Erwin Núñez

TVN: Felipe Camiroaga, Roberto Bruce, Sylvia Slier, Rodrigo Cabezón and Carolina Gatica.

Chilean Council for Culture : Galia Díaz and Romina Irarrázabal

Chilean Air Force: José Cifuentes and Rodrigo Fernández

Desafío Levantemos Chile: Felipe Cubillos, Sebastián Correa, Joel Lizama, Catalina Vela Montero, Jorge Palma and Joaquín Arnold.