A chartered aircraft with 81 people on board, including a Brazilian first division soccer team heading to Colombia for a regional tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin’s international airport.
Colombian police say that five people have survived a plane crash near Medellin’s international airport and the rest of the passengers have been killed.
Gen. Jose Acevedo, head of police in the area surrounding Medellin, provided the information.
“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the site in a mountainous area outside the city where aircraft crashed.
Aviation authorities said the aircraft, a British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane operated by a Bolivian charter airline named Lamia, declared an emergency at 10 pm on Monday (0300 GMT) due to an electrical failure.
Authorities and rescuers were immediately activated but an air force helicopter had to turn back due to low visibility.
The aircraft, which made a stop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil. The team was scheduled to play on Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.
The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, aviation authorities said in a statement. Local radio said the same aircraft transported Argentina’s national squad for a match earlier this month in Brazil.
Meanwhile, the South American football federation (CONMEBOL) put out a press release on its website saying the South American Cup final has been suspended after the crash.
In a statement on its Facebook page, Chapecoense said “may God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation.”
The team said it would refrain from any further statements until it had fully evaluated the extent of the crash.
A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight earlier on Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.
Posted by Associação Chapecoense de Futebol on Monday, November 28, 2016
The team, from the small city of Chapeco, joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals last week by defeating Argentina’s legendary San Lorenzo squad.
Atletico Nacional, the team Chapecoense was scheduled to play in the final, has expressed solidarity with the affected team, tweeting “Atletico Nacional regrets deeply and is in solidarity with Chapecoense Real after the accident happened and is awaiting information from the authorities.”