SANTIAGO (Reuters) – After a gruelling journey up into the rarefied air of the Andes mountains, an expedition team announced it has discovered the fuselage of a passenger plane that went missing over a half century ago.
The LAN Chile Douglas DC-3 twin-propeller aircraft was reported missing on April 3, 1961, near the city of Linares, some 300 kilometres (186 miles) south of the Chilean capital of Santiago. Eight players and the coach of the top-flight Green Cross soccer club as well as three referees were among the 24 passengers travelling aboard the plane. The airline, now part of Latam Airlines Group, the region’s largest carrier, was state-owned at the time of the accident.
Rescuers found the tail end of the aircraft and some human remains a week after the crash, an official who asked not to be named told Reuters, but the recovery effort was abandoned near the snow-capped peaks due to its dangerous and remote location. The rediscovery of the plane is shedding new light on the tragedy, and rekindling the hopes of a long-awaited farewell for some of the passengers’ surviving family members.
To get to the crash site at 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) above sea level, the nine-member mountaineering team travelled two days by horseback, traversing streams and ravines, and then spent another two days climbing deep into the mountains. It took another two days to get back down.
For expedition team leader Lower Lopez, who unsuccessfully made two attempts last year to locate the plane, the third time was the charm. January to April is typically the best time of the year to climb in the Chilean Andes south of the capital.