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'Human error' caused plane crash that killed Brazilian soccer team

Investigators blame the crash on a poor flight plan and negligent planning to prevent the plane from running out of fuel.

By
Stephen Feller
Rescue workers look for bodies after a plane crash in the municipality of La Union, Department of Antioquia, Colombia on November 29, 2016. According to reports, 75 people died when an aircraft crashed late November 28 with 81 people on board, which investigators now blame on human error credited to a flawed flight plan and the plane running out of fuel because of the poor planning of crew and the airline. File photo by Luis Eduardo Noriega A./European Pressphoto Agency
Rescue workers look for bodies after a plane crash in the municipality of La Union, Department of Antioquia, Colombia on November 29, 2016. According to reports, 75 people died when an aircraft crashed late November 28 with 81 people on board, which investigators now blame on human error credited to a flawed flight plan and the plane running out of fuel because of the poor planning of crew and the airline. File photo by Luis Eduardo Noriega A./European Pressphoto Agency

BOGOTA, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- Having already established the flight from Bolivia to Colombia carrying a Brazilian soccer that crashed last month did not experience technical failures, investigators are blaming "unacceptable" human error for dooming the flight.

Colombian officials say the LaMia flight carrying Brazil's Chapecoense soccer team to Colombia for a tournament crashed after pilots failed to refuel on the way and waited to report engines on the craft were failing because of a lack of fuel.

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Investigators had already determined human error was at fault for the crash last week, but had not publicly discussed that the plane was running out of fuel, a mistake they say could have been avoided had pilots and the airline not accepted a flawed flight plan.

Evidence of the avoidable error was found on flight recorders, and leaked recordings also show the co-owner of the airline -- who died on the flight -- was warning of a "total electric failure" and that the plane was running out of gas.

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"The conditions for the flight -- as presented in the flight plan -- were unacceptable," said Freddy Bonilla, head investigator for the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority, said in an official report on the crash. "There was no technical failure, only human and managerial error."

The flight was already 1,000 pounds overweight at takeoff, according to investigators, and flew about 2,000 feet higher than it was designed to.

The main cause of the crash, however, was that the 1,839-mile trip already was pushing the craft's fuel capacity and because the plane did not stop for a refill, ran the risk of running out on the way. Bonilla said it is possible the plane used more fuel than expected because of strong headwinds, but the pilots still could have planned better.

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Based on the recordings, the crew was aware of the problem and watched it happen, but did not alert anybody to the potential or actual problem until it was far too late to do anything about it.

"The flight crew was conscious of the fuel limits and that they did not adequately have what was needed," Bonilla said.

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