COLOMBIA AIR CRASH

“Angry” Chapecoense president takes aim at Lamia airlines

Interim chief says Brazilian soccer club will look at taking legal measures against carrier

Grief has given way to anger for Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, whose players were aboard the plane that crashed in Colombia on Monday – a tragic accident that has made headlines around the world. Ivan Tozzo, the interim president of the first division club, told journalists on Thursday he was “angry” after learning that the plane involved in the crash hadn’t been carrying enough fuel to reach its final destination of Medellín.

Fans of Chapecoense after the accident in which 71 people died.
Fans of Chapecoense after the accident in which 71 people died.F. BIZERRA JR. / EFE/Atlas

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“I am angry that it was a mistake on the part of the airline and the pilot, who is no longer here to explain what happened. It doesn’t make any sense,” said Tozzo.

A total of 77 people were on board the charter flight carrying players and technical staff from Chapecoense soccer club. The team were due to take part in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atlético Nacional of Medellín. Only six survived, among them Alan Ruschel, Jackson Ragnar Follman and Helio Hermito Zampier.

“It wasn’t a problem with the plane, but a lack of fuel – by people who didn’t land to refuel,” said Tozzo of the latest developments in the investigation of the accident.

Colombia’s civil aviation authority says the plane did not have enough fuel in reserve

"I can’t even imagine what they did. They had the range but didn’t have enough reserve fuel. It’s very hard to understand,” said the interim president .

Tozo stressed that Chapecoense remained focused on looking after its players and their families. But it also said the club would meet with its lawyers to look at possible legal action against Lamia, the carrier involved in the crash.

Hours earlier, Chapecoense communications director Andrei Copetti was less forthright, saying the club was not yet focused on possible theories about the accident. He noted Lamia had experience transporting sports teams and this had been the main criteria used by Chapecoense when selecting the airline.

The PR executive also noted the aircraft, an Avro RJ85, was the same type of plane used by the British royal family, which meant the club considered it safe.

But the secretary of airline security at Colombia’s civil aviation authority, Freddy Bonilla, on Wednesday confirmed that “the aircraft did not have enough fuel to meet the regulations for contingency.”

I am angry that it was a mistake on the part of the airline and the pilot Chapecoense chief  Ivan Tozzo

Investigators are still trying to establish why Lamia permitted the plane to fly despite not meeting international rules. The pilot’s decision not to refuel in Colombia has also been questioned. On Thursday, Bolivia’s civil aviation agency suspended Lamia’s operational license.

In 2015, the Bolivia-based Lamia Corporation began working with South America’s soccer federations and the teams playing in the Sudamericana and Libertadores Cups, offering long-haul flights at low-cost prices. The Venezuelan national team used Lamia in September to fly to Barranquilla when it played Colombia, while Argentina chartered a plane to fly to Belo Horizonte in Brazil three weeks ago.

English version by George Mills.

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