Chilean Air Force plane presumed to have crashed en route to Antarctica with 38 people aboard

The plane lost radio contact shortly after 6 p.m.

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By Tim Stelloh

A Chilean Air Force plane flying to Antarctica with 38 people on board was presumed to have crashed Monday afternoon, officials said.

The C130 Hercules, which took off from the city of Punta Arenas, was flying to President Eduardo Frei Montalva Antarctic Air Base when it disappeared, Chile’s Air Force said in a statement.

The plane, which was transferring personnel to a floating fuel-supply pipeline, lost radio contact at about 6:13 p.m. Officials later said it was presumed to have crashed.

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Twenty-one people aboard the plane were passengers and 17 were crew members, the statement said.

Those on board had been tasked with performing logistical jobs in maintenance of Chilean facilities at the base, authorities said.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the 38 crew members and passengers of the FACh (Air Force) C-130 plane," Chilean President Sebastian Piñera wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

Rescuers were scouring the area where authorities "lost communication with the plane, with the goal of rescuing possible survivors," according to a Chilean Air Force statement.

The plane went missing in Drake's Passage, which is known for its freezing temperatures and powerful storms. But Chilean military officials said late Monday that conditions were good when the C130 Hercules took off, or the trip would not have been allowed.

The plane's pilot was experienced and no emergency signals were activated, according to Air Force Gen. Eduardo Mosqueira.

"With the help of many, we are making every effort humanly possible in the search operation for the plane," Pinera said.

Reuters, Associated Press and David K. Li contributed.