The Chilean Air Force said on Thursday, December 12, it has recovered human remains in the search for an Antarctica-bound plane that crashed earlier this week with 38 people on board. There were no survivors, Arturo Merino, head of Chile's air force.
The aircraft, which was heading to a base in Antarctica, disappeared shortly after taking off late on Monday from the southern city of Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. It carried 21 passengers and 17 crew members.
Extreme weather conditions complicated the search efforts
"The condition of the remains we discovered make it practically impossible that anyone could have survived the airplane accident," Merino said. Extreme weather conditions, including low clouds, strong winds and massive, rolling ocean swells initially complicated search efforts following the plane's disappearance.
The first pieces of debris from the plane were discovered by Chilean air force officials late on Wednesday. A Brazilian ship sailing in the region also found pieces of the plane. The air force's Merino said authorities would immediately conduct forensic analyses on the remains to confirm their origin.
Chile military plane en route to Antarctica missing
The Hercules C130 aircraft took off at 4:55 pm (1955 GMT) from the southern city of Punta Arenas and operators lost contact with it shortly after 6:00 pm. Chile's Legal Medical Service, the state coroner, had also sent a team to Punta Arenas to analyze the blood of family members earlier on Thursday. The plane crashed over the Drake Sea, a vast untouched ocean wilderness off the southernmost edge of the South American continent that plunges to 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).
It said the military had declared an alert after communication with the plane was lost, and activated search and rescue teams. "Onboard the C130 Hercules are 38 people, of which 17 are crew members of the aircraft and 21 are passengers," the Air Force said in a statement.
President Sebastián Piñera said via Twitter that he was with his defense and interior ministers at the air force headquarters monitoring developments. The aircraft was traveling to perform logistical support tasks for the maintenance of Chilean facilities at the Antarctic base. The air force said late Monday that the weather good at the time contact was lost.