The Chilean Air Force said Monday that it had lost contact with an Antarctica-bound plane with 38 people on board. The plane departed at 4:55 p.m. local time from Punta Arenas, officials said, and lost contact with operators at 6:13 p.m. local time.
More than seven hours after losing radio contact with the C-130 Hercules, the Air Force declared the plane had crashed, but the search for wreckage continued by both Chilean and partnered forces, in the air and on the water, "with hope of finding any survivors."
The Air Force said it was contacting family members of those on board the plane "to keep them informed of this sad situation which affects both the Force and the nation."
The Air Force said the C-130 was carrying 17 crew members and 21 passengers. Of the passengers, the Air Force said in a tweet, 15 were members of the Air Force, three were from the country's army, two were private citizens from the same company and one was from the University of Magallanes in Punta Arenas. The crew were all members of the Air Force.
The plane was traveling to Antarctica to help maintain facilities at Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva, a Chilean base on the northern tip of the continent, according to the earlier statement. The plane was scheduled to arrive at 7:17 p.m. local time, according to a projection released by the Chilean Air Force on Twitter.
President Sebastián Piñera said on Twitter that he was with his defense and interior ministers at Air Force headquarters monitoring developments. General Eduardo Mosqueira of the Fourth Air Brigade told local media that a search was underway and a ship was in the area where the plane should have been when contact was lost.
Mosqueira said the aircraft would have been about halfway to the Antarctic base when it lost contact. No emergency signals had been activated, he said.
He added that the plane, whose pilot has extensive experience, had been scheduled to return to Chile Monday night.