Saturday, April 28, 2012

Chile blames Air Force officers after deadly plane crash

The Chilean Air Force announced Saturday it has filed administrative charges against 13 of its own officers for their role in a deadly September 2, 2011 plane crash that killed 21 people.

The charges follow a seven-month investigation by a prosecutor into the crash of a CASA-212, Air Force commanding General Jorge Rojas said at a news conference.

Two of the officers being charged are generals who were forced to retire.

The prosecutor's report found evidence to hold the officers responsible but did not list a cause of the crash, which is supposed to be determined later by a judge through a judicial inquiry.

The airplane crashed into the sea while trying to land on the small island of Robinson Crusoe, about 674 km (419 miles) off the Chilean coast.

The prosecutor "closed the summary administrative investigation and under his authority brought charges against 13 officers" of the Air Force, Rojas said.

The officers consisted of two generals, three colonels, five majors, two captains and a lieutenant who were punished for "individual breaches of internal active rules and procedures" of the Air Force, Rojas said.

The two Air Force generals, Marcos Gonzalez and Julio Frias, were forced to retire, while the other officers suffered various disciplinary sanctions.

"Those affected may submit their resignations within five working days," said Rojas.

The CASA-212 plane, with 21 passengers and crewmembers aboard, crashed after two failed attempts to land. It was considered the worst air disaster in Chile in 40 years.

On April 14, the Air Force announced the demotion of General Carlos Bertens for allegedly delaying information indicating the plane was two percent overweight when it took off, or the equivalent of 165 kilos.

A day later, the Chilean newspaper La Tercera revealed the plane had been sidelined five months before the accident and lacked maintenance.

The news reports, along with the late delivery of information about the plane being overloaded, led to criticism from families of the victims, which included Chilean television entertainer Felipe Camiroaga.

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