A plane carrying 72 passengers, among them players from Brazilian football team Chapecoense heading to Colombia to contest the first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana, crashed near Medellin late last night. The plane, operated by a charter airline LaMia, is said to be the very same aircraft that transferred the Argentina Seleccion to Belo Horizonte earlier this month.
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, which departed from Santa Cruz in Bolivia, went down at around 10pm on Monday. Crashing into a mountainous area near Medellin, at least 75 are said to have died. On board was the entire Chapecoense squad, an accompanying entourage of staff and a number of journalists traveling to cover the regional final against Colombian side Atletico Nacional of Medellín.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) November 29, 2016
There are varying reports as to the reason that the plane went down. Alfredo Bocanegra, the head of Colombia’s aviation authority, said initial reports suggest the aircraft was suffering electrical problems although an account of one of the survivors that the plane ran out of fuel just minutes from landing at Jose Maria Cordova airport is also being looked into by investigators.
— 360 Radio Colombia (@360RadioCo) November 29, 2016
Soon after the crash, rescuers working through the night began to recover survivors. The rescue mission, however, was complicated by the heavy rainfall and low visibility that is thought to have contributed in the grounding of the plane. Among the 72 passengers and 9 crew onboard, initial police reports suggested that there were 6 survivors rescued from the wreckage.
Among the survivors was Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel, who according to reports from hospital has suffered serious spinal injuries. Goalkeeper Jackson Follman, a member of the team’s delegation and an unnamed flight attendant also survived. Goalkeeper Marcos Danilo, who had initially been rescued alive and was being treated in hospital, has died in hospital this morning, a Chapecoense spokesman has confirmed. Latest reports this morning have confirmed the rescue of a sixth survivor another player, Helio Hermito Zampier Neto.
Chapecoense’s celebration after reaching the final
The team from the small city of Chapeco, 630 km west of Florianópolis, was living a fairytale season. Having joined the first division of Brazilian football in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s, Chapecoense defeated Argentine side San Lorenzo and Independiente on their way to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, a historic chapter in the club’s history.
“This morning I said goodbye to them and they told me they were going after the dream, turning that dream into reality,” a Chapecoense board member told TV Globo. “The dream was over early this morning.”
The tragedy has shaken the world of football to its core. Tributes and messages of solidarity have poured in from around the world. Ivan Tozzo, the vice-president of the Brazilian Club said that the city of Chapeco is in tears. Tozzo told cable channel SporTV that “there are a lot of people crying in our city, we could never imagine this. Chapecoense is the biggest reason for joy here. We hope there are many survivors, at least that most of them are OK.”
Early this morning, Chapecoense’s official twitter page posted an image of their badge, usually green, in black.
— Chapecoense (@ChapecoenseReal) November 29, 2016
Brazil’s President Michel Temer has decreed three days of national mourning for the victims of the plane crash while the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, offered his solidarity to the families of the victims and the nation of Brazil.
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) November 29, 2016