MEDELLIN, Colombia – The air-traffic controller who communicated with the pilot of a passenger jet shortly before it crashed earlier this week near this northwestern Colombian city says she has received death threats in the wake of the accident.
Yaneth Molina said in a statement to her colleagues that it was comforting to have their support following Monday night’s crash, which left 71 of the plane’s 77 occupants dead – including numerous members of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team – and prompted some “ignorant people” to threaten her.
She said she was convinced that her actions pertaining to the charter plane operated by Bolivia’s Lamia airlines were conducive to saving the lives of those on board.
“I can say with absolute certainty that on my part I did everything humanly possible and technically necessary to save the lives of those air transport users. Regrettably, my efforts were in vain for the reasons of which you all are aware,” Molina said.
The pilot initially requested landing priority after verifying that the plane was low on fuel but did not report an emergency situation at that time, prompting Molina to give priority to another plane that had reported a fuel leak.
The Lamia plane subsequently suffered an electrical failure while in a holding pattern, after which the pilot alerted the control tower to the emergency.
But after being granted permission to land, the plane began a rapid descent and crashed in a mountainous area of the municipality of La Union.
The plane was carrying Chapecoense players, executives, coaches and other staff, along with special guests, journalists and a crew of nine.
Chapecoense, a club based in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, was traveling to Medellin to play in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional.
Sources with Chapecoense said the club may take legal action against Lamia airlines once the process of repatriating the bodies has concluded.