The foundation of the passion and love that bind fans and followers of the beautiful round leather game together was violently shaken on the evening of November 28th when the news of the crash of the ill-fated jet conveying members of the Chapecoense football club to Medellin made its way to the internet.
For a team to lose 19 of its first team players as well as coaches and other members of a team forever, the worst that could happen to a football family and the entire football world had just been realised. And immediately it dawned on us all the risks footballers undertake as they travel every other week for matches. But the shock that comes with the crash of the high-flying Chapecoense was too rude to let go. Definitely, someone or something must be responsible.
Investigations into the crash began almost immediately, but experts immediately poured cold water on the burning expectation saying the investigation could last several months. But with survivors and recorded last minute conversation of the pilot of the ill-fated jet with a control tower in Medellin, it became apparent we might not have to wait several months after all to know what led to the death of nearly all members of the Chapecoense team.
Hours after the crash, reports began suggesting possible causes of the crash. The first pointer was the fact that the plane did not explode at the point of contact could only be due to the absence of fuel; for the plane would have exploded if it had fuel in its reserve, and that would most likely reduced the number of survivors if there would be any at all. Thus the talk of the plane running out of fuel started gaining ground.
Experts who analysed possible reasons for the absence of fuel in the jet opined that the plane could either have indeed run out of fuel, or suffered fuel leakage or the pilot deliberately emptied the fuel in a bid to ensure there are survivors. Details of events leading to the crash that have surfaced ever since have put the former hypothesis as the likeliest of the three to have caused the crash. But how could the plane run out of fuel? How could such negligence be described as every aircraft is as a matter of compulsion expected to have a certain level of fuel in reserve? Wasn’t the plane checked before it departed the port? If yes, on what basis was it allowed to depart: a scheduled refuelling? Whose decision was it?
Word from insiders
As the claim that the plane ran out of fuel was being verified, evidences started surfacing to support the initial claim.
One of the survivors, Xavier Sanchez, a flight attendant, while being removed from the ruins was quoted to have said, “We ran out of fuel, the airplane turned.” About five hours later, an audio of the last conversation between the pilot and an airport controller in Medellin was leaked. In the audio, the pilot was heard to have told the controller of a “fuel emergency” and then of a “total electric failure”, before the line went dead. A pilot of a plane that wasn’t far away also confirmed to have heard the exchanges. The exchanges all but confirmed what led to the crash pending official reports. The question of the rational behind a seemingly stupid decision of flying a plane with no fuel in reserve was begging answers from everyone that had one thing or the other to do with the plane.
In a twist of events that direct accusing fingers at the pilot and the operators of the airline, Celia Castedo, a Bolivian official who works with the LaMia airline, has come out to say she warned the pilot, Miguel Quiroga, of the shortage of fuel before take-off. Ms Castedo is now seeking asylum in Brazil after she said she was being persecuted. Her comments all but proved that Captain Miguel Quiroga knew about the low level of fuel before taking off from the airport.
One of the survivors, crew member Erwa Tumuri, echoing Castedo’s claims, also said the pilot, Miguel Quiroga, flagged a scheduled initial stop for refuelling in the northern Bolivian city of Cabija. Mr Tumuri added that the pilot up until the plane crashed never warned nor informed the passengers or crew members of any electrical problem of shortage of fuel. That move by Quiroga to keep the information from the crew members could only mean he was terribly ashamed of his decision that was going to cost the lives of all passengers and crew members on board. It appears the unfortunate death of 71 members of Chapecoense football team and journalists was all down to the error of judgement and negligence of pilot Miguel Quiroga. It only echoes the report of Boeing that about 80 percent of all plane crashes are caused by human or pilot errors, with just about 20 percent down to mechanical faults.
Following the comment by Celia Casado and other reports that have pointed to the inadequacies of the LaMia airline operator as the cause of the crash, authorities in Bolivia have arrested, Gustavo Vargas, the head of the airline, as part of investigation into the crash. Several documents were seized from the headquarters of the airline in Santa Cruz.
Earlier on Monday, the South American football federation awarded Chapecoense the Copa Sudamericana title following the crash. As the champions, Chapecoense are guaranteed a spot in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the Champions League. Chapecoense have confirmed that their last league match scheduled for December 11 would not be played as it would have no bearing on the position of the team on the log. Meanwhile, a game between Colombia and Brazil is being organised to raise funds for the families of the victims of the crash. The game is scheduled to hold in January.
Following in the steps of Ronaldinho in offering Chapecoense his services, former Chelsea forward and Iceland international striker, Eidur Gudjohnsen has also offered the team his services for free.