The 38-year-old firefighting co-pilot who survived the crash of a 46-year-old early model Canadair water bomber that claimed the life of Portuguese pilot Jorge Jardim on the Portuguese-Spanish border last month has died at his parent’s home in Spain.
President Marcelo has led Portuguese messages of condolence while an autopsy will now go ahead.
Maximiliano Plaza Bretón had been discharged from hospital and was meant to be ‘recovering’. Thus his death has been a bitter blow to those who thought he was out of danger.
Indeed, the day after the accident on August 8, reports described his condition as “stabilised and out of danger”.
The young man went on to undergo surgery being moved from Hospital de Braga in Portugal on August 15 to one closer to his home near Salamanca, in Spain.
The incident meantime is the subject of an in-depth report by Spanish aviation accident experts. It is unlikely to publish its findings for some months.
At the time the plane came down there was criticism of the use of such a heavy and ultimately technologically outdated plane having been used in the circumstances (click here).
The fire, in the Gerês national park, was in a mountainous region, full of issues for cumbersome aircraft, particularly this model of Canadair which was of the first ‘piston engine’ models which have since been superceded by variations using turbo-prop.
Indeed in some countries, piston engine planes are no longer used in anything but ‘flat terrain fire combat’, because of the issues that can arise with the engines.
Duarte Caldeira, president of the Centre of Studies and Intervention in Civil Protection, said immediately after the crash: “I don’t like to take definitive positions in these kind of situations but I have to recognise that in this region, in these areas, these planes have a reduced level of effectiveness than in other types of terrain”.
His reservations however were countered by president of the firefighters’ league Jaime Marta Soares who stressed that in his opinion Canadair planes are “the best in the world” for firefighting no matter what the terrain. Mr Marta Soares did not however differentiate between the models.
The Portuguese contract with Babcock’s for the leasing of these Canadair only involves early model planes (ie piston engine).