A military plane carrying businessmen, troops and journalists crashed off a Chilean island in the South Pacific Ocean, killing all 21 on board, the Andean country’s government said.
All the passengers and crew died instantly, Defense Minister Andres Allamand said after touring the crash site. The twin-propeller Casa C-212 plane crashed last night off the Juan Fernandez Archipelagos, 600 kilometers (375 miles) west of Chile.
“After the search we took part in with the commander-in- chief of the armed forces, we reached the conclusion that the impact was so great that it must have caused the immediate death of all those aboard the plane,” Allamand told television station TVN.
An air force plane flew the recovered bodies of two journalists, a soldier and a Culture Ministry employee back to Santiago today, presidential spokesman Andres Chadwick said.
The plane was attempting to land on one of the islands to bring humanitarian aid, a Defense Ministry statement said. The three volcanic islands, believed to have inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe,” were devastated by a tsunami following a February 2010 earthquake in Chile.
Passengers included businessman Felipe Cubillos and five TVN journalists, including anchorman Felipe Camiroaga. Cubillos, 49, who has interests in the fisheries and shipping industries, began a humanitarian aid program called Rise Up Chile Challenge after the quake left 486 dead and caused $30 billion in damage.
The plane apparently ran out of fuel as strong crosswinds prevented it from landing on the island’s 1 kilometer-long airstrip, air force chief Gen. Jorge Rojas said.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the government will do everything it can to recover the bodies. The search will continue day and night, armed forces Chief Inspector Ricardo Gutierrez told reporters.
Chile has one of the best air-safety records in Latin America. Its last major disaster occurred in 1991, when a Lan Airlines SA (LAN) crash on the south coast killed 20. An air force crash left 14 dead on the south coast in 2000.
In Santiago, hundreds of Chileans holding banners and lit candles and singing hymns gathered outside TVN’s studios in a show of solidarity.
Pope Benedict XVI and the presidents of Mexico, Argentina and Peru sent condolences to the Chilean government, according to CNN.