By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Seventy-six of 81 passengers died late Monday night after their plane crashed into the Colombian mountains, minutes before landing in the city of Medellin. The plane was chartered by Brazilian football (soccer) team Chapecoense, going to play the first of two games for the final of the Copa Sudamericana.
“Very sad news we received this morning,” the team’s vice president, Ivan Tozzo, told Globonews on Tuesday morning, trying to keep tears from swelling up in his eyes. “We would never expect such a thing. It doesn’t seem real. It hasn’t hit me yet,” mumbled the team executive while giving up trying to wipe the tears.
Among the five survivors are three players (Alan Ruschel, Jackson Follmann and Neto), one journalist and a stewardess for Bolivia’s LaMia Airlines. A sixth player, goalie Danilo Padilha, was rescued alive but died on his way to the hospital. In all there were 21 journalists, nine flight crewmembers and 51 Chapecoense team members, including players, staff and executives.
According to Colombian authorities, rescue was hindered by the location of the crash, in a dense wooded area with no road access, and a rainstorm which did not allow helicopters to get close to the accident scene.
The Chapecoense team was going to play against Atletico Nacional of Medellin hoping to win their first international title. The team had lost 1-0 to Palmeiras on Sunday, when the São Paulo team won the Brasileirão.
Within hours, condolences from around the world started to pour in to social media, from sports fans and athletes. Spain’s Real Madrid and Barcelona players observed a minute’s silence for their colleagues during the teams’ Tuesday training sessions. According to authorities this may have been one of the airline crashes with the highest number of dead athletes in recent times.