U.S. Experts Investigate Plane Crash in Colombia

By Dialogo
August 19, 2010

On 17 August, a commission of U.S. experts began investigating the plane
crash that left one person dead and more than twenty injured on 16 August, after a
commercial airplane carrying 131 people split in three as it was landing on the
Colombian island of San Andrés.

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos characterized as a “miracle” the fact
that the crash “did not turn into a tragedy” and announced that he will travel to
the Caribbean island on Wednesday in order to recognize the local authorities for
the timely way in which they reacted to the accident.

For his part, Transportation Minister Germán Cardona indicated that the
investigation into the accident began the same day, Monday, and that a commission of
experts from the United States, including delegates from the Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA), arrived Tuesday in order to collaborate in this

“Anything that could be said at the moment would be no more than speculation.
The investigative commission will give us the definitive answers,” the minister told
the press.

Cardona specified that the Colombian airline Aires, which owned the Boeing
737-700 that crashed, “has been in compliance with the protocols, controls, and
procedures” required by the country’s aviation regulations.

The president of the airline, Francisco Méndez, said at a press conference
Tuesday that the plane suffered the accident “as it was landing at 1:49 a.m. (local
time on 16 August, 6:49 a.m. GMT), at Gustavo Rojas Pinilla Airport, in the middle
of a severe storm.”

“The information that we have is that upon initiating the descent and getting
ready to touch down, something happened that has been described as a bolt of
lightning, and the plane crashed into the ground. We have to really investigate what
it was that happened,” he added.

The motors of the plane, which was finishing a flight from Bogotá to San
Andrés, came off, and the fuselage was split into three pieces on the
The plane was carrying 125 passengers, at least 20 of whom were foreigners,
including 8 from France, 4 from Brazil, 4 from the United States, 2 from Costa Rica,
and 2 from Germany, as well as 6 crew members.

The accident took the life of a seventy-three-year-old woman, who died of a
heart attack after being taken to a hospital on the island of San Andrés, and left
two victims seriously injured, an eleven-year-old girl and a fifty-eight-year-old
woman, who were taken to Bogotá for medical care.

The Germans, Lukas Rehm and Kirsten Epler, are hospitalized in Bogotá in
“stable” condition, according to the airline.

Another eight people injured were also hospitalized in Bogotá in “stable”
condition. In addition, at least twenty people suffered bruises and minor
For his part, the president of the Colombian Air-Traffic Controllers
Association, Carlos Arturo Bermúdez, declared that a number of problems have been
reported at the San Andrés airport.

In addition, he declared that there is a deficit of more than three hundred
air-traffic controllers in Colombia.

The deputy director of the Civil Aviation Agency (Aerocivil, the regulatory
agency for commercial aviation in Colombia), Col. Donald Tascón, announced that the
plane’s black boxes have now been recovered.