Brazilian Soccer Team’s Plane Crashes: 71 Dead

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Raul Arboleda / Getty Images

Todd Potter, Staff Writer

On Monday night, a chartered plane carrying players from a first-division soccer team crashed into the mountains near Medellín, Colombia.  Only six people aboard the plane survived the crash.

The 77 passengers on the plane included players of Chapecoense, a Brazilian soccer team from a small industrial city in southern Brazil with a population of about 200,000.  The team had risen from Brazil’s fourth division, where they started less than a decade ago, into playing in one of South America’s most famous tournaments.  The team was scheduled to play Atlético Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana finals on Wednesday in Medellín.

21 journalists were on board working to cover the game.  Only one journalist, Rafael Valmorbida, survived.  Six Fox Sports Brazil employees were among the people killed.

The plane departed from Bolivia and was flying over the city of La Union around 10 p.m. when the crew declared an emergency, according to a statement released by the José Maria Córdova International Airport in Rionegro, Colombia.  Authorities say that the plane made an emergency call saying that they had ran out of fuel after experiencing an electrical failure moments before the crash.

The plane crashed in a mountainous area about 22 miles away from the airport where it hoped to land.

Three players survived the crash including Alan RuschelJakson Follman, and Helio Zampier.  All three players were pulled out of the wreckage and were taken to a nearby hospital to be treated.  One of Follman’s legs was amputated.  Zampier was in critical but stable condition.  Ruschel underwent spinal surgery, but can move all his limbs.

The Chapecoense club released a statement  after the crash Monday night, grieving the victims that were killed.

“May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation.”

The president of the opposing team, Atlético Nacional, Juan Carlos de la Cuesta issued a statement, expressing solidarity with Chapecoense.  He requested that Copa Sudamericana declare the Chapecoense club the tournament champions in light of the tragedy.

Andrew Hazzard (11) agreed with Carlos de la Cuesta’s statement because it honors the Chapecoense club.

“I think [Carlos de la Cuesta’s suggestion] is a great way to honor the team and the memory of all the athletes lost in the crash. It brings a new meaning to the trophy.”

The entire soccer world mourns the people that died in the plane crash, especially the players of Chapecoense that were about to taste playing in the Copa Sudamericana finals.  The president of Brazil, Michel Temer, declared three days of national mourning.

Manas Jinka (11) believed that the team’s legacy will live on despite this tragedy.

“It’s sad that their dream of achieving a championship was cut short.  It’s gonna be tough for the football community, but I know that the team’s legacy will carry through the passion of football in Brazil.”