Chilean mountaineers have found the wreckage of a plane that crashed in the Andes 54 years ago, killing 24 people, including eight members of a professional football team.

The group said they chanced on the wreckage at an altitude of about 3200m about 360km south of the capital, Santiago.

Expedition member Leonardo Albornoz said they're keeping the site secret to prevent looting.

The disappearance of the DC-3 carrying members of the top-division Chilean team Green Cross on April 3, 1961 was one of the great unsolved mysteries in the South American country and at the time stunned the sporting world.

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The team had played an away match in Osorno in the Copa de Chile and were returning to Santiago. The team and staff were spread over two flights. One of the planes reached the Chilean capital but the other never turned up.

Searchers spent weeks looking for the missing plane.

The mountaineers said they could see a good part of the fuselage without needing to dig it out and found scattered debris and bones.