UPDATE: A radical theory involving a passenger’s video game has emerged as a possible reason for the crash in Columbia of a plane carrying a Brazilian soccer team.
The theory suggests the plane ran out of fuel because its crew searched for a player’s video game before takeoff — a delay that led to a skipped refuelling stop en route to Medellin.
Lamia Flight 2933, which took off from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia, had planned to stop for fuel in Cobija — a Bolivian city bordering with Brazil — but the airport there did not operate after midnight, the Daily Mail reported.
The chartered jet, carrying the Chapecoense team to the Copa Sudamericana final, ran out of fuel while waiting for landing clearance at Medellin — leading Capt. Miguel Alejandro Quiroga to call a desperate mayday.
The Daily Mail reports that the plane hit a mountainside soon after, killing 71 of the 77 people on board, after flying for 20 minutes longer than its four-hour fuel capacity.
An eerie video has emerged of the co-pilot promising to offer the Chapecoense football team “the best service”.
Television cameras from Bolivian broadcaster Gigavision were on board flight LMI 2933 before it left Santa Cruz and headed for Medellin to capture the team’s excitement ahead of the Copa Sudamericana final.
Chapecoense were due to play Atletico Nacional in the decider of South America’s second-tier club competition but the plane carrying their team, members of the public and crew crashed around 30km from its destination.
Watch the video below
The crash came just hours after co-pilot Sisy Arias, also a part-time model, spoke of her pride that LAMIA Airlines were flying the football team to their big match.
“LAMIA is always flying soccer teams, in this case Chapeco, taking them to the city of Medellin, Colombia,” Arias told Gigavision.
“And we are ready to offer them the best service.
“It is very important to know they use a Bolivian company.”
Another member of staff, who remains unidentified, was filmed joking with players, as striker Everton dos Santos Goncalves said: “It’s very important final for us.
“And being taken by LAMIA, makes it all alright.”
The video showed the jovial atmosphere on the flight, which was also captured by a series of Chapecoense players.
In a video posted to Instagram, defender Alan Ruschel – flanked by goalkeeper Danilo Padilha – said: “In not long, we’ll be arriving in Colombia.
“We’re coming Colombia.”
Ruschel was one of just six survivors and is reportedly in a stable condition despite suffering spinal injuries in the accident.
The co-pilot and pilot
The flight was the first of Arias’ career as a co-pilot, The Sun reported.
She was keen on a career in aviation and posted on Instagram in 2014 that she was “so proud to be a fly girl.”
A photo posted by Gabriela A. Paraviciny (@sisyariasgp) on
Other posts of hers showed off an aircraft transition training course certificate, while she was keen on exercise and keeping fit.
Arias was reportedly well-known in Colombia as a model.
A photo posted by Gabriela A. Paraviciny (@sisyariasgp) on
According to The Daily Star, her father, Jorge Arias, posted on social media: “I hope God will keep her in his glory.
“My girl, I love you, I loved you and I will always love you.
“Love, I do not know what my life will be without you. Sisyta, my girl forever.”
Little is known about pilot Miguel Alejandro Quiroga Murakami, but a recording of his final words revealed he told the control tower the plane was “in total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel”.
No fuel on board
Initial findings from the civil aviation authority have confirmed that the LAMIA plane crashed without fuel.
“When we arrived at the accident site and were able to inspect the remains we could confirm that the aircraft had no fuel at the time of impact,” said Freddy Bonilla, secretary of airline security at Colombia’s aviation authority.
“In this case, sadly, the aircraft did not have enough fuel to meet the regulations for contingency.
“One of the theories we are working on is that finding no fuel at the crash site or in the alimentation tubes, the aircraft suffered for lack of fuel.”
An exhaustion of fuel can be caused by several factors including a fuel leak, internal icing, failure of the fuel pumps or gauges, or crew error managing the engine’s use of fuel. Electrical failure would also occur if an aircraft were to run out of fuel.
But Bolivia’s Deber newspaper is reporting that the pilot was warned by an airport official before taking off from Bolivia that he might not have enough fuel.
Brazil’s O Globo newspaper suggested that because of a delayed departure, a refuelling stop in Cobija – on the border between Brazil and Bolivia – was abandoned because the airport did not operate at night.
The report also said the pilot had the option to refuel in Bogota but instead flew straight on to Medellin.
An investigation has been launched into why the plane flew in those conditions, while LAMIA Airlines has had its permit suspended.
Offers of help
With Chapecoense reduced to just six players and some support staff, other Brazilian teams have offered to help the club out.
They are keen to send players on loan to Chapecoense for next season as it was mooted that they be exempt from relegation for at least three years.
Chapecoense play in Brazil’s top league and secretary general of the Brazilian Football Confederation, Walter Feldman, said “eight clubs” had already offered “solidarity”.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Brazilian icon Ronaldinho and Argentinian legend Juan Roman Riquelme may sign short-term contracts with the club as they begin a lengthy re-building process.
Both players are revered in South America, but have retired.
The tragedy has weighed heavily on the nine Chapecoense players who did not make the trip, none more so than 42-year-old goalkeeper Nivaldo, who was left out of the squad for the first leg of the final to prepare for his 300th appearance for the club in front of home fans this weekend.
“That was in his head and it’s my destiny,” Nivaldo told CNN from the club’s stadium.
“I have dual feeling about being alive today but deep in my heart what if I had gone?”