Plane Carrying a Brazilian Soccer Team Crashes in Colombia, Killing 75 People

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Many around the world are in mourning after a small chartered plane carrying 81 people, including members of a well-loved Brazilian soccer team, crashed in Colombia’s capital leaving only 6 survivors.

Via: NYTimes

A chartered plane carrying 81 people, including members of a Brazilian soccer club, crashed on the outskirts of Medellín, Colombia, killing nearly everyone onboard, the authorities said early Tuesday.

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Colombia’s civilian aviation authority said that six people had survived the crashthree players, two crew members and a journalist who was accompanying the team.

The flight was operated by a small airline, LaMia, and was carrying members of the Chapecoense de Brasil soccer club, according to the civil aviation authority. They were traveling from Bolivia to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana tournament when the plane crashed around 10 p.m. on Monday.

The aircraft was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, according to a statement issued by the Medellín airport. Search and rescue efforts were hampered by low visibility and difficulty in reaching the site.

The authorities said the plane had reported electrical problems as it flew near the towns of La Ceja and La Unión, in mountainous stretches around Medellín.

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The crash crushed the hopes of one of the most impressive success stories in Brazilian soccer. In a national soccer league plagued by corruption scandals, mismanagement and lingering fury over the debacle of the national team’s loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Chapecoense managed to achieve success on the field and financial stability.

It emerged as a scrappy upstart, challenging giants like Flamengo, Corinthians and other storied Brazilian clubs. In southern Brazil, the team was the pride of Chapecó, a staid city of 210,000 known for its food processing plants and other agribusiness ventures.

At least 21 journalists were reported to be onboard the chartered plane, including reporters from Fox Latin America, the Globo television network and news organizations from southern Brazil. All but one died, the authorities said.

“It’s a tragedy which has us in mourning,” President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning, with an image of the team’s logo. “Solidarity with the families of the victims and with Brazil.”

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The Colombian station Blu Radio, citing an interview it conducted with Alfredo Bocanegra, Colombia’s civil aviation director, said the plane had declared an emergency as it approached Medellín. The plane was given priority to land before air traffic controllers lost contact with it.

Federico Gutiérrez, the mayor of Medellín, told Blu Radio that “emergency support, with firefighters, ambulances and the hospital network,” had been activated.

Conmebol, the governing body of South American soccer, issued a statement to say that all of the federation’s activities would be suspended until further notice. A number of teams in Brazil canceled events; Barcelona said it would hold a moment of silence before training on Tuesday; and clubs from across the world, including Manchester City and AC Milan, presented their condolences.

Romário de Souza Faria, a former striker for the Brazilian national team, expressed his “solidarity with the friends and families of the players, journalists, technical staff and flight crew” who died in the crash.

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“God please help all those who were onboard the plane,” Alexandre Pato, who plays in Spain and has been a member of Brazil’s national team, wrote on Twitter.