Round-the-world yachtsman Felipe Cubillos dies in the Chilean air crash tragedy

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Felipe Cubillos (1962-2011).

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On Friday, Chilean Air Force pilot Carolina Fernández Quinteros was attempting to land her CASA C-212 at the Juan Fernández aerodrome. President Sebastian Piñera, declared two days of national mourning for 21 people killed off the coast of Juan Fernandez Island, when a Chilean Air Force CASA C-212 attempted to land in strong crossed winds. Meanwhile searchers continue to scourer coastal waters for more human remains. Aircraft debris might help investigators figure out why this tragedy happened. Six bodies have now been recovered with four identified. As bodies were recovered by the island’s fishermen and the rescue force, it soon became clear that there would be no survivors from the flight. The Chilean Defence Minister, Andres Allamand, Felipe’s brother-in-law, explained the situation: “Based on observations and the search we carried out with the Air Force commander, we have reached the conclusion that the impact was such that it should have resulted in the instantaneous death of all of those who were aboard the aircraft,” he stated at a press conference.

Global Ocean Race round-the-world Chilean yachtsman, Felipe Cubillos (1962-2011), was among the 21 passengers and crew of a FACH (Chilean Air Force) plane that went missing off the Juan Fernández Islands, 515 miles off the Chilean coast on Friday 2 September. The 49 year-old sailor, entrepreneur and philanthropist was part of group heading to the islands for an official ceremony to celebrate the completion of reconstruction work following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in February last year.

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Cubillos was representing Desafío Levantemos Chile (Rise up Chile) – a charity that has been a driving force in reconstructing Chile since the national disaster in 2010 – and was travelling with five colleagues from the charity. Other passengers included representatives of the Chilean Air Force; members of the Consejo de Cultura (Cultural Advisory Department) and a team of five from Televisión Nacional de Chile (TVN).

Shortly before the CASA C-212 aircraft took off from Santiago at 13:52 on Friday, Felipe’s last public communication was via Twitter – a platform he used constantly to update progress with Desafío Levantemos Chile: “Travelling now to the island of Juan Fernandez with the support of our Air Force. We continue to work to help the people of the island,” he tweeted. According to Grupo 10 of FACH, the plane was approaching the island having circled twice before landing. On its final approach, the plane disappeared off the radar. Strong winds were reported in the area and may be the cause for the plane’s disappearance. Two civilians that were waiting for the plane saw it circling over the runway and saw it veering away to the right. Rescue teams including a Hercules C-130 were sent to the missing plane’s last known position immediately.

As bodies were recovered by the island’s fishermen and the rescue force, it soon became clear that there would be no survivors from the flight. The Chilean Defence Minister, Andres Allamand, Felipe’s brother-in-law, explained the situation: “Based on observations and the search we carried out with the Air Force commander, we have reached the conclusion that the impact was such that it should have resulted in the instantaneous death of all of those who were aboard the aircraft,” he stated at a press conference. The Chilean President, Sebastian Pinera, confirmed that his thoughts were with the families of those on board the plane: “I empathise with the anguish and uncertainty of the relatives of the 21 passengers aboard the plane,” said Mr Pinera. “This is a very hard blow for our country,” the President added. Pinera subsequently declared two days of national mourning in Chile.

Felipe Cubillos burst into the international ocean racing scene in 2008, teaming up with fellow Chilean co-skipper, Jose Muñoz, in the double-handed division of the round-the-world, Class40 Global Ocean Race 2008-09 racing the Guillaume Verdier-designed Desafio Cabo de Hornos – a yacht decorated with the distinctive body-painting designs of the Tierra del Fuego Indians. Felipe and Jose entered the record books as the first Chilean team to complete a round-the-world race – finishing the circumnavigation in second place, just two hours and 25 minutes behind the victorious German duo of Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme with Beluga Racer after 145 days, five ocean legs and 29,000 miles of racing.

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