75 dead and six sur­vivors as flight car­ry­ing Chapeco ense foot­ball team crashes after ‘elec­tri­cal fault’

Malta Independent - - COLOMBIA PLANE CRASH -

Achartered plane with a Brazil­ian first di­vi­sion soc­cer team crashed near Medellin while on its way to the fi­nals of a re­gional tour­na­ment, killing 75 peo­ple, Colom­bian of­fi­cials said. Six peo­ple sur­vived.

The Bri­tish Aero­space 146 short­haul plane, op­er­ated by a char­ter air­line named LaMia, de­clared an emer­gency and lost radar con­tact just be­fore 10pm Mon­day be­cause of an elec­tri­cal fail­ure, avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties said.

The air­craft, which had de­parted from Santa Cruz, Bo­livia, was trans­port­ing the Chapecoense soc­cer team from south­ern Brazil for the first leg to­day of a two-game Copa Su­damer­i­cana fi­nal against Atletico Na­cional of Medellin.

“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.”

South Amer­ica’s soc­cer fed­er­a­tion ex­tended its con­do­lences to the en­tire Chapecoense com­mu­nity and said its pres­i­dent, Ale­jan­dro Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin. All soc­cer ac­tiv­i­ties were sus­pended un­til fur­ther no­tice, the or­ga­ni­za­tion said in a state­ment.

Dozens of res­cuers work­ing through the night were ini­tially heart­ened after pulling three pas­sen­gers alive from the wreckage.

But as the hours passed, and heavy rain­fall and low vis­i­bil­ity grounded he­li­copters and com­pli­cated ef­forts to reach the moun­tain­side crash site, the mood soured to the point that au­thor­i­ties had to freeze un­til dusk what was by then a body re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion.

Images broad­cast on lo­cal tele­vi­sion showed three pas­sen­gers ar­riv­ing to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in am­bu­lances on stretch­ers and cov­ered in blan­kets con­nected to an IV.

Among the sur­vivors was a Chapecoense de­fender named Alan Ruschel, who doc­tors said suf­fered spinal in­juries. Two goal­keep­ers, Danilo and Jack­son Foll­mann, as well as a mem­ber of the team’s del­e­ga­tion and a Bo­li­vian flight at­ten­dant, also sur­vived.

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.

Bri­tish Aero­space, which is now known as BAE Sys­tems, says that the first 146-model plane took off in 1981 and that just under 400 -

in­clud­ing the suc­ces­sor Avro RJ were built in to­tal in the UK through 2003. It says around 220 of are still in ser­vice in a va­ri­ety of roles, in­clud­ing aerial fire­fight­ing and overnight freight ser­vices.

Al­fredo Bo­cane­gra, the head of Colom­bia’s avi­a­tion author­ity, said ini­tial re­ports sug­gest the air­craft was suf­fer­ing elec­tri­cal prob­lems although in­ves­ti­ga­tors were also look­ing into an ac­count from one of the sur­vivors that the plane had run out of fuel about 5 min­utes from its ex­pected land­ing at Jose Maria Cor­dova air­port out­side Medellin.

A video pub­lished on the team’s Face­book page showed the team ready­ing for the flight ear­lier Mon­day in Sao Paulo’s Guarul­hos in­ter­na­tional air­port. It wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear if the team switched planes in Bo­livia or just made a stopover with the same plane.

The team, from the small city of Chapeco, was in the mid­dle of a fairy tale sea­son. It joined Brazil’s first di­vi­sion in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Su­damer­i­cana fi­nals - the equiv­a­lent of the UEFA Europa League tour­na­ment - after de­feat­ing two of Ar­gentina’s fiercest squads, San Lorenzo and In­de­pen­di­ente, as well as Colom­bia’s Ju­nior.

“This morn­ing I said good­bye to them and they told me they were go­ing after the dream, turn­ing that dream into re­al­ity,” Chapecoense board mem­ber told TV Globo. “The dream was over early this morn­ing.”

The team is so mod­est that its 22,000-seat arena was ruled by tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers too small to host the fi­nal match, which was in­stead moved to a sta­dium 300 miles to the north in the city of Cu­ritiba.

“This is un­be­liev­able, I am walk­ing on the grass of the sta­dium and I feel like I am float­ing,” An­drei Copetti, a team spokesman, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “No one un­der­stands how a story that was so amaz­ing could suf­fer such a dev­as­tat­ing re­ver­sal. For many peo­ple here re­al­ity has still not struck.”

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