World

Airline and pilot 'directly responsible' for plane crash that killed 71, says Bolivia

A Bolivian government investigation into the plane crash that killed dozens of Brazilian soccer players last month concluded that a Bolivian airline and pilot were directly responsible, Public Works Minister Milton Claros says.

Pilot killed in crash, airline CEO jailed earlier this month on manslaughter charge

A relative of LaMia pilot Miguel Quiroga, who died in the crash, holds his picture as his remains arrive at the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Dec. 2. A Bolivian government investigation into the crash concluded Quiroga and the Bolivian airline were directly responsible. (Juan Karita/Associated Press)

A Bolivian government investigation into the plane crash that killed dozens of Brazilian soccer players last month concluded that a Bolivian airline and pilot were directly responsible, Public Works Minister Milton Claros said on Tuesday.

The pilot, Miguel Quiroga, was one of 71 people killed when the Bolivia-based charter carrier LaMia Airlines plane apparently ran out of fuel and crashed on a wooded hillside near the Colombian city of Medellin. Quiroga was also a co-owner of the airline.

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

"LaMia and the pilot are directly responsible for what happened with this tragic event," Claros, who oversees Bolivia's aviation authority, said at a news conference.

Gustavo Vargas Gamboa, LaMia's chief executive, was jailed earlier this month on manslaughter and other charges. He has denied the charges.

Flowers hang from a soccer net at the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil, on Nov. 29. Team players died on the way to their biggest game in the team's history. (Andre Penner/Associated Press)

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

Criminal charges were also 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.

At the press conference, Claros said the crash was an "isolated" incident and did not mean it was unsafe to fly in Bolivia. Still he said the government would accelerate the process of implementing a new aeronautical safety system.

Police officers and rescue workers search for survivors around the wreckage of a chartered airplane that crashed in Colombia late last month. (Luis Benavides/Associated Press)