Brazilian Soccer Team Plane Crashes In Colombia, 76 Dead
BOGOTA, Colombia - A chartered plane with a Brazilian first division soccer team crashed near Medellin while on its way to the finals of a regional tournament, killing 76 people, Colombian officials said Tuesday. Five people survived.
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, operated by a charter airline named LaMia, declared an emergency at 10 p.m. Monday because of an electrical failure, aviation authorities said.
The aircraft, which had departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the Chapecoense soccer team to Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova airport.
The team, from southern Brazil and which had started its journey in Sao Paulo, was scheduled to play Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the team switched planes in Bolivia or just made a stopover with the same plane.
“What was supposed to be a celebration has turned into a tragedy,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez said from the search and rescue command center.
The club said in a brief statement on its Facebook page that “may God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation.”
Brazil as well as South America’s soccer federation extended its condolences to the entire Chapecoense community and said its president, Luis Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin. All soccer activities were suspended until further notice, the organization said in a statement.
Elkin Ospina, mayor of La Ceja, near where the crash took place, said rescuers working through the night had been heartened after pulling three passengers alive from the wreckage.
Authorities and rescuers were immediately activated but an air force helicopter had to turn back because of low visibility. Heavy rainfall complicated the nighttime search, and authorities urged journalists to stay off the roads so ambulances and other rescuers could reach the site.
Images broadcast on local television showed three male passengers arriving to a local hospital in ambulances on stretchers and covered in blankets connected to an IV. All were apparently alive and one of them was reportedly a Chapecoense defender named Alan Ruschel.
The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, aviation authorities said in a statement. Local radio said the same aircraft transported Argentina’s national squad for a match earlier this month in Brazil, and previously had transported Venezuela’s national team.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.