An aircraft carrying 81 people, including players from the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, crashed on route to Colombia’s second-largest airport Monday, killing at least 75, according to local reports.
The BAE Systems Plc RJ-85 plane chartered from Bolivia’s Lamia had been carrying the team, officials and journalists ahead of Wednesday’s Copa Sudamericana final against Medellin-based Atletico Nacional. The accident occurred before dawn.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer declared three days of official mourning, according to a post on his twitter account.
“When dawn arrives we will remove the bodies and start the process of sending them to their countries of origin,” General Jose Acevedo, police chief in Antioquia, told Colombia’s Caracol radio.
Defender Alan Ruschel had survived and been taken to hospital, his girlfriend said in a post on social media. He’s among three players, two crew members and one journalist to survive the crash, according to a statement from Colombia’s aviation agency.
Players’ relatives gathered at the team’s headquarters in the southern state of Santa Catarina.
The crash came amid one of Chapecoense’s best seasons ever. The team, which had been promoted to Brazil’s top division as recently as 2014, would have played in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-tier club competition, for the first time.
“There are a lot of people crying in our city, we could never imagine this. Chapecoense is the biggest reason for joy here,” Chapecoense vice-president Ivan Tozzo told Sport TV.
The president of regional soccer body Conmebol, Alejandro Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin. “The Conmebol family greatly regrets what happened. All activities of the confederation are suspended until further notice,” the soccer body said in a statement.
Brazil’s President Michel Temer expressed solidarity with the families of the dead and injured. He said the country’s foreign ministry and aviation officials are dealing with the matter. “The government will do all it can to alleviate the pain of friends and family in the sport and national journalism,” he said in a statement.
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