Fifty four years after a Douglas DC-3 crashed in Chile’s Andes – killing all 24 people aboard, including members of a Chilean soccer team and three referees – a team of mountaineers discovered the remains of the crash.
The 1961 LAN 301 air crash was deemed at the time one of the world’s major air disasters involving athletes – surpassed maybe only by the 1972 Uruguayan plane crash that stranded members of a rugby in the high Andes. The plane’s whereabouts has been one of the great unsolved aerial mysteries.
Remains of the crash were finally found early this week at an undisclosed location about 200 miles away from Santiago, Chile.
“The plane is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. A large part of the fuselage is still intact and a lot of material including human bones are scattered around the wreck,” expedition member Leonardo Albornoz said, according to UK’s Mirror newspaper.
Albornoz said officials are declining to disclose the exact location of the plane because they don’t want the site to become a tourist attraction.
“This story is being rewritten because they’re not where official publications indicated,” he said. “We don’t want this place to be defiled and the remains taken as trophies. You have to remember people died here and their families deserve respect.”
The Douglas DC-3 was one of two flying back to Santiago after the Green Cross soccer club played a cup match against Osorno Selección on April 1, 1961 that ended in a 1-1 draw. While some players opted to go on a second flight that made a few stops before arriving in Santiago, most Green Cross’ first team squad flew on the doomed plane as it took a more direct route to the Chilean capital.
Despite the loss of its players, the team decided to fulfill its cup obligations and play the second leg of their bout against Osorno Selección, which they lost 0-1 and were knocked out of the cup. The crash also left an indelible mark on the club, which was founded in 1916, as they finished 12th out of 14 clubs that season and the next year were relegated.
The team made a stunning comeback in 1964 when it returned to the Chilean league’s first division. The victory, however, was short-lived as in March 1965 the Green Cross merged with Deportes Temuco, and was renamed Green Cross Temuco.