Mourning

“No one deserves to die like that, especially when you’re extending a helping hand to others,” a Chilean colleague remarked to me.  She was referring, of course, to Friday’s air crash off the Juan Fernandez archipelago in which 21 people are presumed dead.  Among the victims were five journalists from Chile’s national television network who travelling to the Pacific territory to report on reconstruction after last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

The area was home for four years to shipwrecked sailor Alexander Selkirk, who may have inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe. The earthquake that struck Chile generated a tsunami that killed eight people on the largest island, which has a population of approximately 630 people and lies 375 miles west of the mainland.

Chile’s defense minister toured the crash site and afterwards said authorities had concluded that the twin-propeller Casa C-212 plane would have crashed with such impact that all those on board died instantly. The pilot was considered one of the best and brightest, a 26-year old woman who had flown a number of difficult missions in the past and was a member of Chile’s elite Fifth Air Brigade. For more background, see http://ilovechile.cl/2011/09/04/carolina-fernandez-quinteros-chiles-pilots/29858.

The tragedy prompted a postponement of former president Salvador Allende’s third funeral, scheduled for Sunday, the anniversary of his 1970 election.  His remains were exhumed in May and examined by a team of specialists who concluded that the Chilean leader had committed suicide.  A statement by the Fundacion Salvador Allende http://www.fundacionsalvadorallende.cl/ said the family wanted to extend its sympathies to the victims’ families and that a date for the burial would be announced later.

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