75 killed as plane car­ry­ing Brazil foot­ballers crashes

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A char­ter plane car­ry­ing a Brazil­ian foot­ball team crashed in the moun­tains in Colom­bia late Mon­day, killing as many as 75 peo­ple, of­fi­cials said. But they said six sur­vived, in­clud­ing four play­ers. Brazil’s Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer de­clared three days of mourn­ing for the vic­tims. The LAMIA air­lines char­ter de­clared an emer­gency at around 10 pm lo­cal time (0300 GMT yes­ter­day), 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 that had risen from ob­scu­rity to play in the Copa Su­damer­i­cana fi­nals to­day against Atletico Na­cional of Colom­bia.

“The pain is ter­ri­ble. Just as we had made it, I will not say to the top, but to have na­tional promi­nence, a tragedy like this hap­pens. It is very dif­fi­cult, a very great tragedy,” club vice-pres­i­dent Ivan Tozzo told Globo SportTV. In all, there were 72 pas­sen­gers and nine crew on board the Bri­tish Aerospace 146.

A po­lice com­man­der, Jose Ger­ardo Acevedo, ini­tially said only five peo­ple sur­vived the crash, but Colom­bian au­thor­i­ties later said a sixth per­son was found alive, rais­ing hopes there might be other sur­vivors. “The res­cue of a sixth sur­vivor, player He­lio Her­mito Zampier Neto, who is in the process of be­ing evac­u­ated, is con­firmed. The pos­si­bil­ity that other peo­ple will be found alive has not been ruled out,” Colom­bia’s dis­as­ter risk man­age­ment agency said.

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 hos­pi­tals, along with a flight at­ten­dant and a journalist.

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 km 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 m above sea level and very dif­fi­cult to ac­cess. Res­cuers car­ry­ing stretch­ers had to hike for more than half an hour to reach the site. On its Twit­ter ac­count, the air­port said a plan to use 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 of yes­ter­day, with plans to re­sume. 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 to­day’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 in 2014 for the first time since 1979. 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.” — AFP

LA UNION, Colom­bia: Res­cuers search for sur­vivors yes­ter­day in the wreck­age of the LAMIA air­lines char­ter plane car­ry­ing mem­bers of the Chapecoense Real foot­ball team that crashed in the moun­tains of Cerro Gordo. — AFP

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