Brazilian authorities restarted at 5;30 am, this Sunday, their search for victims of the Gol airline’s Boeing 737 that fell in the Brazilian jungle on Friday, after colliding with a smaller plane bound to the United States.
The Boeing had 155 people aboard, including 6 crew members, and it’s feared that no one has survived the crash.
According to Brazil’s National Agency of Civil Aviation seven military men spent the night in the area of the crash and 200 agents of the FAB (Brazilian Air Force) are working today in search of bodies, which according to some reports have been mutilated beyond recognition.
Part of the FAB’s job is to open clearings in the dense forest where the plane fell. Six experts from Brasília’s Coroner’s Office (IML) have been sent to the area to help with the identification of the bodies.
The seven people in the Legacy plane that collided with the Boeing were heard by investigators during about 9 hours on Saturday and early this morning. All of them repeated that they didn’t notice when the other plane got close.
Joseph Lepore and Jan Palldino, pilot and co-pilot of the small plane said that they were in contact with the control tower when the collision occurred.
According to them the Legacy aircraft flew at a speed of about 800 km/h. The collision occurred at 37,000 feet, but did not have too great of an impact, according to the testimonies.
Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva has declared three days of national mourning.
The Boeing 737-800 Next Generation plane was flying from Manaus to the capital, Brasília, when it vanished from radar screens on Friday.
If no survivors are found, Friday’s crash would become the worst air disaster in Brazil’s history.
"It would be very difficult for anyone to survive such a crash," Jose Carlos Pereira, president of the Brazilian airport authority, told journalists.
"Our experience shows that when one cannot find the fuselage relatively intact and when the wreckage is concentrated in a relatively small area, the chances of finding any survivors are practically non-existent," he added.
A Gol airline statement state said the wreckage had been found 30 km (19 miles) north of the town of Peixoto Azevedo.
"Speculation won’t get us anywhere at this time," Gol’s president, Constantino said, adding that the plane, Gol’s first to suffer an accident, was among "the most modern aircraft, with all equipment functioning in perfect order" noted that the Boeing aircraft had capacity for 178 passengers plus the crew members, had been received from the manufacturer on Sept. 12 and had just 234 flight hours.
"Gol’s airplanes have flown more than 650,000 hours without a fatal accident since the company entered into operations on the 15th of January 2001," Oliveira Junior said.
Gol has grown exponentially since it took to the skies, dramatically boosting its fleet using the same model of plane to keep costs down while giving passengers cold box lunches and soft drinks instead of hot meals and free alcohol, the norm on most Brazilian flights.
The company is now Brazil’s second-largest airline after Tam Linhas Aereas SA, with more than 500 daily flights within Brazil and to Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.
Gol, on Saturday provided more details about the passengers and crew on board Flight 1907, a Boeing 737-800:
People on board: 155
(including four children under 12 years of age and an infant – 11 months)
Flight crew: 6
Passenger destinations (cities):
Brasília 65 and 1 infant
Rio de Janeiro 28
Porto Alegre 8
São Paulo 4
Belo Horizonte 1
Captain Décio Chaves Junior, born on February 23rd, 1962, 44 years old, married. Chaves Jr. started his career as a pilot in 1980 and joined Transbrasil in February 1986. As Captain, he flew Boeing 727 and 737 aircrafts.
A Gol pilot for the last five years, he joined the company on October 22nd, 2001, flying Boeing 737 NG’s. He was also currently working as a route instructor. Total hours flown: 14,900. Hours flying Boeing 737 NG: 3,900.
Co-pilot Thiago Jordão Cruso, born on April 20th, 1977, 29 years old, single. Cruso started his piloting career in 1999. A Gol employee for more than four years, he joined the company in June 2002. Total hours flown: 3,850.