19 November, 2022

Two firefighters killed in collision with LATAM Airbus in Peru

Photo AFP

The investigation is in its early stages into how a fire truck collided with an Abus A320 belonging to LATAM Airlines that was taking off from Lima's Jorge Chavez airport to operate flight LA2213 to the Peruvian city of Juliaca.

The Prosecutor's Office confirmed it was looking into the incident and seeking to 'clarify the facts regarding the possible crimes of culpable homicide and culpable injuries.'

The airline issued a brief statement which said the aircraft "collided with a fire engine that entered the runway during take-off at Lima’s Jorge Chรกvez International Airport. There are no fatalities among the 102 passengers and six crew members. As a precaution, all passengers and crew are being taken to health centres.

LATAM Airlines Peru regrets the passing of the two firefighters who were on the fire engine that collided with the aircraft, as informed by Lima Airport Partners, the operator of Jorge Chavez Airport.   

Currently, LATAM Airlines Peru is focused on providing support to passengers and their families. At the same time, it is working in coordination with authorities to support the investigation into the event.

LATAM Airlines Peru is deploying all its resources to attend to those affected and has activated its emergency response plan."

According to the local health authorities, some 61 people had been transferred to nearby clinics and hospitals, although it is not believed any were in life-threatening conditions. 

Various images and videos spread on social media show the aircraft sliding down the runway, with its main undercarriage appearing to collapse on one side, with flames and billowing black smoke filling the sky.

There is some confusion why the fire truck entered the runway while an aircraft was in the process of taking off,  during a press conference, LATAM CEO Manuel Van Oordt confirmed the aircraft had been cleared by the tower for take-off,  "We don't know why [fire truck] was there,  - We didn't ask for their services."

President Pedro Castillo used social media to pay tribute to the dead firefighters, "I express my heartfelt condolences to the relatives of รngel Torres and Nicolรกs Santa Gadea, brave firefighters who died in the accident. My thoughts and my prayers are with them. I pray for the recovery of the wounded."

The airport said:  "Lima Airport Partners deeply regrets the loss of the lives of two members of the Aeronautical Fire Department of LAP in the accident that occurred this afternoon between a fire engine and the aircraft that attended flight LA2213 that covered the Lima-Juliaca route. 

We express our solidarity with the families of Angel Torres of the Garibaldi 6 Fire Company and Nicolรกs Santa Gadea of the Garibaldi 7 Fire Company, with whom we have already contacted to put ourselves at your disposal. 

At this moment we are conducting all the necessary investigations to determine the causes of this fact."

Local media is reporting that a third firefight had been seriously injured in the crash and was undergoing treatment in hospital, however, this has yet to be confirmed. 

The airport also reported that:

The Aviation Accident Investigation Commission (CIAA) of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, comes Working since last night to determine the causes of the accident and supervising the removal work on the runway of landing.
Although the work has been carried out intensively by the airline and in permanent coordination with LAP and the authorities, this is taking longer than estimated due to the complexity of the accident and the Treatment of fuel spillage caused.
In view of the revision, LAP has requested to extend the suspension of operations until 00:00hrs on November 20 of 2022.
LAP is working in parallel in the repair of pavement, lights and other affectations, in order to to ensure the safety of passengers and aircraft.
The reopening of the runway and aeronautical operations will only be possible with the approval of the authority corresponding.

Without wishing to preempt any investigation, it would seem that there has been a horrendous lack of communication or a tragic misunderstanding that has led to this crash, which could have been so much more serious.