Plane carrying Brazilian soccer team crashes in Colombia; 75 dead

BOGOTA, Colombia — Seventy-five people, including members of the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, died when their chartered plane crashed in the mountains of Colombia, aviation authorities said on Tuesday.

Colombia’s civil aviation authority said six people survived the crash in the Cerro Gordo mountain range in Colombia’s northeastern Antioquia region.

In a press release via Facebook, it said Chapecoense defenders Alan Ruschel and Helio Hermito Zambier, known as Neto, and goalkeeper Jakson Follman had survived, along with crew members Ximena Suarez and Erwin Tumiri and journalist Rafael Henzel. All were being treated in local hospitals.

Goalkeeper Danilo was initially reported among the survivors but did not appear on a later list. News reports said he was rescued alive but later died of his injuries.

The Lamia Airlines Avro RJ aircraft was carrying nine crew members and 72 passengers, among them team members, journalists and club officials.

Authorities said 72 bodies had been recovered. Rescue efforts at the scene of the crash near the city of Medellin have been hampered by the rough terrain and heavy fog.

The cause of the crash had not yet been determined. Colombian Air Force Colonel Edgar Sanchez said that the flight crew had reported problems with the aircraft’s electronics system before the accident around 0300 GMT.

Air traffic controllers lost radar contact with the charter plane near El Gordo mountain, close to the town of La Union, Alfredo Bocanegra of Antioquia’s aviation authority said.

The athletes were on their way to a Wednesday match in Medellin, the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Colombian rivals Atletico Nacional, and had flown in via Bolivia.

Brazilian President Michel Temer declared three days of national mourning. “I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families,” he said in a statement.

The Chapecoense team comes from the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, and was promoted to Brazil’s first division in 2014.

The Lamia Corporation, founded in 2009 in Venezuela and later relocated to Bolivia, provides chartered flights.

Sources told dpa that Argentinian star Lionel Messi had traveled on the same plane less than three weeks ago, returning to Argentina after the national team’s World Cup Qualifier against Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

In the wake of the crash, Atletico Nacional asked the South American Football Confederation CONMEBOL that Chapecoense be awarded the Copa Sudamericana title.

“Atletico Nacional asks CONMEBOL that the title of South America be given to Chapecoense,” the team wrote in a statement, adding that “pain overwhelms our hearts.”

CONMEBOL earlier announced it was suspending all activities related to the final match in the wake of the crash.

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