Tragedy as 76 Brazilian footballers die in plane crash
A charter plane carrying a Brazilian football team crashed in the mountains in Colombia late Monday, killing 76 people, officials said. They said five survived the disaster.
The LAMIA airlines charter declared an emergency at around 10 pm local time” 0300 GMT Tuesday, reporting it had suffered “electrical failures,” and crashed a short time later near the city of Medellin, officials said.
The plane was carrying members of Chapecoense Real, a Brazilian football club which was to have played in the Copa Sudamericana finals on Wednesday against Atletico Nacional of Colombia.
In all, there were 72 passengers and nine crew on board.
“We were able to rescue six people alive but one of them died on the way to the hospital,” Jose Gerardo Acevedo, a police commander, told reporters.
One of the survivors was Alan Ruschel, a 27-year-old defender for the Brazilian team, the head of Colombia’s civil aeronautics agency, Alfredo Bocanegra, told reporters.
Radio Caracol said two other players — Marcos Danilo Padilla and Jackson Follmann — also survived and were taken to area hospitals, along with a flight attendant and a journalist.
– ‘Electrical failures’ –
The LAMIA airlines flight originated in Sao Paulo, Brazil and had made a stop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia before continuing on to Rionegro, a city near Medellin.
The airport statement said the plane reported an emergency at 10 pm local time (0300 GMT). “It declared it had electrical failures.”
It went down about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, in an area called Cerro Gordo.
Elkin Ospina, the mayor of the town of La Ceja near the crash site, said the mountainous terrain was some 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level and very difficult to access.
Rescuers carrying stretchers had to hike for more than half and hour to reach the site.
On its Twitter account, the airport said a plan to fly in an air force helicopter had to be shelved because of bad weather in the area.
Ospina said authorities were on the scene and hospitals and medical centers were preparing to receive the injured.
But the bad weather forced the search to be suspended in the early hours Tuesday. It was to resume at 6:00 am (1100 GMT).
Colombia’s civil aeronautics agency said it had a team at the airport in response to the crash.
Conmebol, the South American football confederation, meanwhile officially called off the Copa Sudamericana final that was to be played between Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional.
“All activities of the confederation are suspended until further notice,” Conmebol said.
Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional were supposed to have faced off in Wednesday’s first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious club football tournament in South America after the Copa Libertadores.
Chapecoense had reached the final after completing a victory on away goals last week over Argentinian side San Lorenzo in the semi-finals.
Chapecoense is widely regarded as one of the minnows of Brazilian club football having been founded relatively recently in 1973 in the city of Chapeco in southern Santa Catarina state.
After decades in the lower divisions, Chapecoense returned to Brazil’s top flight, Serie A, for the first time since 1979 in 2014. The club finished in 14th spot in the 2015 edition of the 20-team championship.
Nine team members did not travel to Colombia.
Two weeks ago, the same plane was used to fly the Argentine national team with Lionel Messi on board to San Juan, Argentina for a World Cup qualifying match.
Atletico Nacional said on its Twitter account it “profoundly laments and expresses solidarity with @chapelcoensereal for the accident that occurred.”