Rescue workers in Chile have found human remains after an air force plane with 38 people on board went missing on Monday, a regional governor said.
Magallanes Governor José Fernández said relatives of those missing had been informed of the find.
Earlier, Chile’s air force said that wreckage had been found floating in the area where the C-130 Hercules cargo plane had last made contact.
It was en route to a military base in the Antarctic.
Governor Fernández did not give many details. He said that “we received information today from the air force, telling us that they’d found some wreckage from the plane as well as remains of people who were on board”.
“It is a very sad moment,” he added. Chile’s air force has not yet confirmed the information.
The governor said a wheel from the plane, part of the landing gear and the fuselage had been recovered, and that more pieces were floating in the sea.
Earlier, Air Force Commander Eduardo Mosqueira told reporters that search teams had located debris that “could be part of the remains of the sponges of the internal fuel tanks”. The wreckage was located 30km from the plane’s last-known position.
Cmdr Mosqueira said the air force would carry out “corresponding checks” to determine whether it was from the missing plane. He also said that personal items suspected to come from the plane had been found.
A Brazilian navy ship sent to aid with the search efforts also located some debris. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tweeted that “polar ship Almirante Maximiano of the Brazilian navy, collected at around 15:45, personal items and wreckage matching that of the Hercules C-130 of the Chilean air force”.
The plane was en route from Chile’s southern city of Punta Arenas to the country’s Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base in the Antarctic. Contact with the plane was lost at 18:13 local time (21:13 GMT) on Monday, shortly after the C-130 took off from Punta Arenas.
The Chilean air force released a map of the plane’s flight path and a timeline showing it had been due to land at 19:17 on Monday at Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva.
A massive air and sea search was launched soon after the plane went missing. Argentina, Brazil, the UK and Uruguay have sent planes to help with the search in the icy waters, while the US and Israel have been providing satellite images.
Three of the passengers were Chilean soldiers, two were civilians employed by engineering and construction firm Inproser going to carry out work on the military base, one was a student and the remaining 15 passengers were members of the air force, an official said.
The C-130 is used to transport people and goods to the base in Antarctica
Ignacio Parada had been studying civil chemical engineering at Magallanes University and was headed to the Antarctic base for an internship. His professors described the 24-year-old as “an excellent student”. He was particularly interested in renewable energy, he said in an interview he gave to the university recently.
Inproser employees Leonel Cabrera and Jacob Pizarro were going to carry out work on the military base.
Relatives of those on board have been awaiting news at Cerrillos air force base
The three soldiers who boarded the Hercules plane on Monday were Col Christian Astorquiza, Lt Col Oscar Saavedra and Maj Gen Daniel Ortiz.
There was only one woman on board: 37-year-old geographer Claudia Manzo joined the air force in 2008 and was passionate about remote sensing – obtaining information about areas from a distance by aircraft or satellites.
Also among those travelling to the base were two brothers, Luis and Jeremías Mancilla. Jeremías, 27, had been hired by the air force to carry out work on the electrical circuits on the base. His older brother Luis is sergeant in the air force.