Authorities: Human error led to Colombia soccer plane crash



BOGOTA, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Errors by the pilot, airline and Bolivian regulators are to blame for a plane crash in Colombia that killed 71 people last month, including most of Brazil's Chapecoense soccer team, Colombia aviation authorities said on Monday.

The plane, operated by Bolivia-based charter company LaMia, crashed on a wooded hillside near Medellin because the pilot failed to refuel en route and did not report engine failures caused by the lack of fuel until it was too late, officials said.

"No technical factor was part of the accident, everything involved human error, added to a management factor in the company's administration and the management and organization of the flight plans by the authorities in Bolivia," Colombia's Secretary for Air Safety Colonel Freddy Bonilla told journalists.

Aviation authorities in Bolivia and the airline "accepted conditions for the flight presented in the flight plan that were unacceptable," Bonilla added.

Besides a lack of fuel, the plane was over its weight limit by nearly 400 kilograms (881 lbs) and was not certified to fly at the altitude at which the journey took place, Bonilla said.

The preliminary conclusions of Colombia's investigation coincide with assertions by Bolivian authorities last week that LaMia and the plane's pilot were directly responsible for the accident.

Pilot Miguel Quiroga was also a co-owner of the airline and was killed in the crash.

Gustavo Vargas Gamboa, LaMia's chief executive, was jailed pending trial earlier this month on manslaughter and other charges, which he has denied.

His son Gustavo Vargas Villegas, a former official with Bolivia's aviation authority, is also being held on charges that he misused his influence in authorizing the license of the plane that crashed. He also says he is innocent.

Criminal charges have also been brought against LaMia co-owner Marco Antonio Rocha Benegas, whose whereabouts are unknown, and air traffic controller Celia Castedo, who fled Bolivia after the crash and is seeking asylum in Brazil.

Bolivian authorities have said the crash was an isolated incident, but that the government will accelerate the process of implementing a new safety system. Colombian investigators have the final word on causes of the crash, Bolivian authorities have said.

The aircraft had been transporting the Chapecoense team to the biggest game in its history, the final of the Copa Sudamericana.

All but three of the players and staff onboard were killed. Two crew members and one reporter also survived.

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Relatives, teammates reunited with remains of Chapecoense plane crash victims
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Relatives, teammates reunited with remains of Chapecoense plane crash victims
Relatives of Nilson Junior Folle, one of the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real players killed in the plane crash, embrace each other close to the coffin at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
View of some coffins for players of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense Real at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Executives of Brazilian team Chapecoense Real look at a coffin of one of the team players killed in the plane crash, at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Roberto D'Machi, a relative of Nilson Junior Folle, one of the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real players killed in the plane crash, shows his sadness close to the coffin at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
The coffins of some of the Brazilian Chapecoense football team players killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, are seen at he Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
The coffins of some of the Brazilian Chapecoense football team players killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, are seen at he Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
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