La Union : The football world mourned after a plane carrying a Brazilian team crashed in the mountains in Colombia, killing 71 people but miraculously leaving six survivors, officials said.
Football legends Pele and Maradona as well as current superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo led tributes to the players of Chapecoense Real, a humble team whose march to glory was cut abruptly short.
Having risen only recently from obscurity, the team was on its way to play in the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-biggest club tournament, when disaster struck.
“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,” club vice-president Ivan Tozzo told Globo SportTV.
“It is very difficult, a very great tragedy.”
Colombia’s civil aviation authority initially said 75 people were killed, but it later emerged that four people on the passenger manifest had not in fact boarded the plane — a club official, a journalist, the mayor of the team’s hometown and the city council president.
“It’s one of those things in life. Only God knows why I ended up staying behind,” the mayor, Luciano Buligon, told Brazil’s TV Globo.
The six survivors are being treated in hospital, officials said.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called it a “sad tragedy,” and Brazil’s President Michel Temer declared three days of mourning.
The dead also included 20 Brazilian journalists travelling to cover the match. The charter plane, flown by Bolivian company LAMIA, departed from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz and declared an emergency at around 10:00 pm Monday (0300 GMT Tuesday).
It reported “electrical failures” and crashed soon after near the city of Medellin, its destination, officials said. Governor Luis Perez of Antioquia department, where the plane went down, said investigators had found its two black box recorders.
He said a crew member had reported that “the lights on the aircraft suddenly went out.”
The British Aerospace 146 airliner was first sold as new in 1999 and was used by two other airlines before being acquired by LAMIA, a spokesman for the manufacturer told AFP.
Specialist sites revealed that the same plane was used two weeks ago to fly the Argentine national team with Messi on board to San Juan, Argentina for a World Cup qualifying match. Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said it was sending investigators along with representatives of the plane’s manufacturer BAE Systems to Colombia to help with investigations.
Wayne Rooney @WayneRooney
l Sad news to wake up to today. Thoughts are with @ChapecoenseReal and their family and friends.
Manchester United @ManUtd
l The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with @ChapecoenseReal & all those affected by the tragedy in Colombia.#ForçaChapecoense
FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona
l Before training the team held a minutes silence for the victims of the @ChapecoenseReal tragedy in Colombia
Leo Messi @messi10stats
l Sad day for football. Thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Chapecoense players. May their souls Rest in Peace#ForçaChape
Radamel Falcao @FALCAO
l My pray and solidarity for survivors, family and friends of @ChapecoenseReal in this sad time.
Arda Turan @ArdaTuran
l Saddened to hear the plane crash involving #Chapecoense team outside of Medellin. RIP @ChapecoenseReal team and others who lost their lives.