Chile blames Air Force officers for deadly plane crash

The Chilean Air Force said Saturday it had filed charges against 13 of its officers for their role in a plane crash last September that killed 21 people.

The charges follow a seven-month investigation by a prosecutor into the CASA-212 plane crash, considered the worst air disaster in Chile in 40 years, Air Force commanding General Jorge Rojas told a news conference.

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.

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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 on September 2 last year.

The officers facing charges included 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, along with the group's commander, Cesar Pino, while the other officers suffered various disciplinary sanctions.

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

Defense Minister Andres Allamand said President Sebastian Pinera supported the forced retirements of the generals.

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.

by Dan De Luce © 2012 AFP

Source: AFP
Date: Apr 28, 2012