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Lack of fuel caused Chapecoense plane crash tragedy, probe finds

Officials said crew members ignored a low-fuel warning when the plane was about 40 minutes from its intended destination.

Fuel shortages and negligence caused a plane crash that killed 71 people in 2016, including most members of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense, Colombian authorities have concluded.

The team was on its way to Medellin in Colombia to play a South American cup final.

Friday’s report from Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority capped a 17-month inquiry into the November 28 2016 crash on a mountain just a few miles from Medellin.

Officials said crew members ignored a low-fuel warning when the plane was about 40 minutes from its intended destination.

Instead of making an emergency landing at a nearby airport, they headed on towards Medellin and the British Aerospace Avro RJ85 ran out of fuel.

The flight that took the Brazilian football players to Medellin was operated by LaMia, a charter airline registered in Bolivia whose general manager was charged with manslaughter following the accident.

The plane has alarms and lights that turn on that tell the crew to do something when fuel is low. But there was no communication with air traffic control Miguel Camacho, chief investigator for Colombia's Civil Aviation Authority

The airline’s sole surviving owner, Marco Antonio Rocha, is also wanted for manslaughter, but is currently at large and has refused to return to Bolivia, claiming that he will not receive a fair trial.

Forensic experts had long said that the lack of an explosion at the crash site indicated the plane had run out of fuel.

On Friday, Colombian officials provided further details on the flight’s last minutes, saying crew members failed to tell controllers that their plane was low on fuel.

“The plane has alarms and lights that turn on that tell the crew to do something when fuel is low,” said Miguel Camacho, the chief investigator for Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority.

“But there was no communication with air traffic control.”

Officials said the plane’s crew could have requested an emergency landing at two airports that were located closer than Medellin’s airport, but that would have forced the airline to pay landing fees and fines.

“The crew insisted on carrying out their original flight plan, even when they realised they had a very limited amount of fuel,” the report said.

Officials said that the crew of the 90-seat passenger jet attempted to make a four-hour flight from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Medellin with 9,300 kilograms of fuel.

Regulations stipulate that the plane would have needed to carry 11,600 kilograms of fuel to fly that distance.

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