A Chilean air force plane with 21 people aboard, including a popular local TV host, crashed on Friday near the Juan Fernandez Islands in the Pacific Ocean, authorities said.
The CASA 212 military plane tried twice to land at the airport on the remote Chilean island, but strong wind gusts buffeted the aircraft and it was later lost from sight, said Felipe Paredes, a local council member who was in the airport’s control tower at the time.
Rescuers in boats were searching for the plane and survivors, but Juan Fernandez Mayor Leopoldo Gonzalez said some luggage had been found in the water and it was clear the plane crashed.
“We assume that there was an accident and that there are no survivors,” Gonzalez said.
Rescue teams later found an intact door and several knapsacks in the water about 2,000m from the island’s airport, authorities said.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera expressed sadness.
“This is a blow to our country. In these times of anguish and uncertainty is when unity is most needed,” he said.
Chilean Defense Minister Andres Allamand called it a “particularly difficult” situation, but said that for now, the plane was still listed as “missing.”
Authorities said popular Chilean TV personality Felipe Camiroaga was flying to the island to do a program on the reconstruction of Juan Fernandez Island following the magnitude 8.8 earthquake and tsunami that wiped out its main town on Feb. 27 last year.
The 44-year-old TV presenter was one of five people from Television Nacional’s program Good Morning Everyone who were traveling to the island.
Besides hosting the morning program, Camiroaga also hosted the popular program Nocturnal Animal and co-hosted the Vina del Mar music festival in 2009 and last year.
“We are extremely upset,” TVN executive director Mauro Valdes said.
Also on board was businessman Felipe Cubillos, a brother-in-law of the defense minister who had been working on post-earthquake reconstruction.
The remote Chilean archipelago, about 830km west of Chile’s coast, is known for possibly having inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe.
The air force plane took off from the capital, Santiago, at 2pm and lost contact with air control almost four hours later, according to a statement from aviation authorities.
“It’s a difficult runway, but not impossible,” Chilean Civil Aviation Authority president Julio Subercaseaux told state TV.