Report: Pilot Chose Not to Refuel Doomed Plane

Air traffic controller is getting death threats
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2016 1:48 PM CST
Report: Pilot Chose Not to Refuel Doomed Plane
Funeral employees ready caskets for victims of Monday's plane crash in Medellin, Colombia.   (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

(Newser) – The pilot of the plane that crashed in Colombia on Monday while carrying a Brazilian soccer team made a fateful decision not to stop to refuel the aircraft, according to a report in a Brazilian newspaper. The account in O Globo says pilot Miguel Quiroga chose not to stop en route in Bogota, about 260 miles from his destination, reports the BBC. He did so despite being warned that he might run out of fuel before he took off from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, according to the Bolivian newspaper Deber. The risk seemed clear given that the maximum range of his Avro RJ85 plane is roughly equivalent to the total distance of the flight from Santa Cruz to Medellin. The plane might have made it if not for one thing: Quiroga was ordered to circle near the Medellin airport for seven minutes because another plane needed to make an emergency landing, reports Reuters.

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Quiroga, perhaps not realizing the situation was so dire, did not immediately signal an emergency, reports AP. But soon he radioed that he was out of fuel and experiencing electrical failure, and by then it was too late. The air traffic controller who handled the call has since received death threats. "I did all that was humanly possible and technically necessary to preserve the lives of the passengers," she wrote in a letter to colleagues. "Unfortunately my efforts weren't enough." International flights are supposed to carry enough fuel for an additional 30 minutes of flight time, and authorities continue to investigate. In the meantime, Bolivia has suspended the charter of the small airline that operated the flight. (Read more plane crash stories.)

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