Colombia plane crash Brazilian football team wiped out after switching flights

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Six people have survived the horror crash in northeastern Colombia, the country”s police force has said.

Members of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense were onboard as they flew from Bolivia to José María Córdova International Airport in Rionegro, Medellin for the Copa Sudamerica finals against Atletico Nacional tomorrow.

The flight, run by Venezuelan company LaMia, was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members when it crashed at 10.15pm local time on Monday – five minutes from landing – in the El Gordo mountains close to the city of Medellin, Colombia”s second largest city.

Local reports said the footballers were forced to board the Lamia plane after Brazilian aviation authorities prevented them from taking a charter flight to Medellin.

Brazilian President Michel Temer has declared three days of mourning in Brazil because of the “tragedy” which has affected “dozens of families”.

He tweeted: “In this sad hour when the tragedy reaches dozens of Brazilian families, I express my solidarity to them.”

The President added the Government will use “all means” to “help the relatives” of the victims.

Witnesses said they have seen six people rescued so far, with four of them confirmed as Chapecoense players, one a member of cabin crew and a journalist.

A seventh person survived the crash but died on the way to hospital, authorities confirmed.

Authorities initially said five people had survived but an hour after the fifth was found, another football player was found.

Alan Ruschel, 23, a defender on loan from Brazilian side Internacional, was the first survivor to arrive at a medical centre in La Ceja, Colombian TV station Noticias Caracol reported.

He is understood to have arrived at the hospital entirely conscious but suffering a broken hip and skull injuries.

The player immediately asked about his family and asked Chapecoense delegates already in Medellin to store a ring for him.

His sister, Alissen Ruschel, tweeted: “God is big and gives you strength! I love you, brother. You are a warrior!!!”

Goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha, just known as Danilo, was sent to San Juan de Dios hospital followed by flight attendant Jimena Suárez Otterburg.

Jakson Follmann, 21, who is also a substitute goalkeeper for the Brazilian team, was the fourth survivor to arrive at the care centre in eastern Antioquia. 

Brazilian journalist Rafael Henzel Valmorbida was also rescued.

Defender Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, known as Neto, 31, was rescued nearly an hour after the other five.

A local firefighter helping in the rescue of Neto, said: “He is in very bad condition with traumatic brain injury.”

Ruschel and Danilo were sitting next to each other on the flight and had sent a picture to fans via Snapchat of them together before lift-off.

Nine players from the team did not travel with the team and remained in Brazil.

Rescuers are believed to have pulled 25 bodies out of the wreckage so far but bad weather is hampering their efforts.

A total of 22 journalists were also on the flight, including six from Fox Sports Brasil, to cover the meteoric rise of the club which was in Brazil”s Division Four just a few years ago.

José Gerardo Acevedo, Medellin Police Commander, said: “In the first light of day we will transfer the rescued bodies to the morgue.”

Mr Gutierrez said emergency systems have been triggered at local hospitals to take care of survivors.

People with 4×4 vehicles are being asked to lend their help to access the difficult to reach area.

Rescue units were immediately sent to the area, but only land access was possible due to bad weather conditions.

A helicopter sent by the Colombian Air Force was forced to cancel its operation due to “low visibility”.

The region has been hit by heavy rain in recent days, with a severe storm hampering the efforts of rescue services.

Ambulances taking survivors to hospital are only able to get within 30 minutes walk of the spot where the plane crashed.

Rescuers on foot are having to take survivors on stretchers through thick fog with only a few feet of visibility.

They are then putting them onto lorries which drive them another 700 metres to the waiting ambulances, but lorries are getting stuck in the mud causing more problems.

Temperatures of just five degrees are putting survivors at risk of hypothermia.

Medellin mayor, Federico Gutierrez, said: “It”s a real tragedy what happened tonight. 

“We regret this great loss of life and express our solidarity with the families, friends and fans of the Chapecoense team. 

“We have arranged all the necessary technical cooperation and human help to handle this accident.”

The two pilots and seven cabin crew on board were all Bolivian, while most of the 72 passengers were Brazilian.

About 40 passengers were part of the Chapecoense delegation, including 20 players, the manager, Caio Junior, and four other members of his coaching team including an assistant manager, a personal trainer, a kinesiologist and a masseur – who is thought to be among the survivors.

The club”s president and vice-president were also on board along with other club managers.

The team were due to stay at the four-star Hotel San Fernando near Medllin”s Botanical Gardens.

Football clubs across the world have tweeted their condolences to Chapecoense using the hashtag #Forçachape – strong Chape – in support.

Arsenal FC tweeted: “Thinking of you, @ChapecoenseReal.”

Manchester United tweeted: “The thoughts of everyone at Manchester United are with @ChapecoenseReal & all those affected by the tragedy in Colombia.”

Liverpool FC, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone @ChapecoenseReal and all those affected by the tragedy in Colombia.”

Barcelona FC, tweeted in Spanish: “All our support and solidarity with the victims and the families affected by the tragedy of the @ChapecoenseReal in Colombia.”

A spokesman from Colombia”s Civil Aviation Service, said the crash could have been caused by “total electrical failure” and admitted “a lack of fuel is possible”.

Chapecoense is just beginning to enjoy remarkable success and has only been in the Brazillian League”s Division One for three seasons.

The team is the first Brazilian club in three years to qualify for a continental final, the Copa Sudamerica – equivalent to the Europa League.

Players have put their success down to good management and funding, with the club being one of the only Brazilian teams not in debt.

A statement from the Chapecoense Football Association, said: “May God be with our athletes, leaders, journalists and other guests who are with the delegation.”

It added they are awaiting news on the cause of the accident from the Colombian Air Authority.

A statement from the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL), said: “CONMEBOL confirms that it has been notified by Colombian authorities that the plane in which the delegation of Chapecoense Atlético de Brasil was travelling suffered an accident upon arrival in Colombia. 

“We are in contact with the authorities and pending official investigation.

“The CONMEBOL family greatly regrets what happened.

“All activities of the Confederation are suspended until further notice.

“CONMEBOL President Alejandro Domínguez is currently on his way to Medellín.”

This is a breaking story.

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