Plane carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense crashes; 71 dead

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A plane carrying 77 passengers, including Brazilian first division team Chapecoense, crashed in a mountainous region of Colombia late on Monday with officials later confirming 71 people had been killed and six survived.

[ MORE: World soccer in mourning ]  

The survivors are Chapecoense players Alan Ruschel, Jackson Ragnar Follmann and Helio Hermito Zampier, plus flight attendant Ximena Suarez, aircraft mechanic Erwin Tumiri, and journalist Rafael Valmorbida.

Three days of national mourning has been declared in Brazil following the tragedy, while all soccer games have been postponed for a week as a mark of respect.

The charter plane, operated by LaMia, was en route from Bolivia to the Colombian city of Medellin with Chapecoense scheduled to play the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Colombian side Atletico Nacional on Wednesday. The game has been postponed with it unlikely to ever go ahead as what what meant to the greatest week in Chapecoense’s history has turned into a tragedy.

[ MORE: “The Leicester City of Brazil” ]

While Atletico Nacional are also said to have asked for the Copa Sudamericana title to be awarded to Chapecoense.

Initially the flight had left Sao Paulo and then stopped in Santa Cruz, Bolivia on its way to Medellin in northern Colombia. Of the seven survivors of the crash, one died after being rescued and three are Chapecoense players with defender Ruschel confirmed to be in hospital, plus goalkeepers Follmann and Marcos Danilo also rescued. However, the club has since confirmed that Danilo had died from his injuries.

Suarez, Tumiri and Valmorbida also survived the crash, while a seventh survivor was later pulled from the wreckage and it has now been confirmed as defender Neto.

Described by their coach Caio Junior as the “Brazilian Leicester City” Chapecoense had only been promoted to Brazil’s top-flight in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s (they were in the fourth-tier in 2009) and were in the midst of one of their best ever seasons.

As well as being in ninth place out of 20 in Brazil’s top-flight, Chapecoense had qualified for the Copa Sudamericana finals (the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League in South America) last week after they defeated Argentina’s San Lorenzo in the semifinal. It was an incredible achievement for the club from the small southern Brazilian city of Chapeco, and their exploits had caught the imagination of fans not only in Brazil but across South America.

In a short statement Chapecoense simply said: “May God be with our athletes, directors, journalists and the other guests that were travelling together.”

Via NBC News, here are some more details on what happened:

Poor weather conditions had been reported at the time of the crash. At one point, rescue operations were suspended due to heavy rain.

The chartered jet operated by LaMia was carrying Chapecoense, a soccer team which plays in Brazil’s top division. It crashed at around 10 p.m. ET on Monday while on its way from Santa Cruz in Bolivia to Medellin’s international airport, which is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet.

Alfredo Bocanegra, the head of Colombia’s civil aviation agency, said that communication with Bolivian aviation officials suggested the plane was experiencing electrical problems. However, he added that investigators would have to evaluate reported testimony from a female flight attendant who said the plane had run out of fuel.

It has also been reported by local outlets in Colombia that the plane which crashed had also transported Argentina’s national squad for their match against Brazil earlier this month, and had also previously transported Venezuela’s national team. Other outlets have also reported that the pilot reported an electrical fault on the plane as it made its final approach to Medellin, while others suggest there may have been a fuel shortage.

Medellin’s Mayor Federico Gutierrez described the crash as “a tragedy of huge proportions” while CONMEBOL, soccer’s governing body in South America, has suspended all activities and their president Alejandro Dominguez is making his way to the crash site.

Players, clubs and fans across the world have showed their solidarity, sending messages of support to Chapecoense in their time of need.