The pilot of a plane that crashed in Colombia killing 71 of the 77 on board told air traffic controllers he had run out of fuel just moments before the tragedy.
An audio recording leaked to W Radio shows the pilot, Miguel Quiroga, repeatedly requesting permission to land due to a ‘total electric failure’ and lack of fuel.
A female controller can be heard giving instructions as the plane loses speed and altitude about eight miles from Medellin Airport, the Independent reports.
The pilot says he is flying at an altitude of 9,000ft in the Andes mountains just before going silent.
Only six people – two crew members, a journalist and three members of Brazil’s Chapecoense football team – of the 77 on board survived the crash in La Union town, outside of the north-eastern city of Medellin.
Juan Sebastian Upegui, the co-pilot on a nearby Avianca plane, said he overheard the LaMia pilot telling the control tower in Medellin he was in trouble.
Upegui described the pilot as saying: “Mayday mayday… help us get to the runway… help, help.” He added: “Then it ended. We all started to cry.”
The aircraft, which was flying from Brazil via Bolivia, was carrying the Chapecoense football team for Wednesday’s first leg of the two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin. Twenty-one journalists were also on board.
Flight CP-2933m declared an emergency at 10pm on Monday (3am Tuesday GMT), reports the BBC. But priority had already been given to a plane from airline VivaColombia, which had also reported problems, Upegui said.
— Dinto Devid (@dintodevid) November 29, 2016
Crew members who survived the crash described how the lights went out and passengers began to shout before the aircraft crashed.
Bolivian flight technician Erwin Tumir said he was alive because he strictly followed safety instructions.
He told Colombia’s Radio Caracol: “Many passengers got up from their seats and started yelling. I put the bag between my legs and went into the fetal position as recommended.”
Nine of the club’s players did not travel with the rest of the squad on the chartered flight, according to local media.
Desolación total en el vestuario de Chapecoense. Los jugadores que no hicieron el viaje, devastados. Qué jornada tan jodida. pic.twitter.com/acgTMar1oC
— Invictos (@InvictosSomos) November 29, 2016
Jakson Follmann, the team’s 24-year-old goalkeeper is said to be in the most ‘severe’ state of all the survivors, but his condition is medically stable. The goalkeeper has had one leg amputated and might still lose his other foot, the BBC reports.
Alan Ruschel, 27, left-back, has had spinal surgery but still has ‘normal movements in upper and lower limbs’, according to the club.
Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, 31, defender, was the last person to be saved and remains in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs.
Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this devastating accident.