Plane Carrying a Brazilian Soccer Team Crashes in Colombia
A chartered plane with 81 people aboard, including members of a Brazilian soccer club, crashed on the outskirts of Medellín, Colombia, the authorities said early Tuesday.
Colombia’s civil aviation agency said the flight was operated by a small airline, LaMia, and carried the soccer club Chapecoense de Brasil. The team was traveling from Bolivia to play in the Copa Sudamericana tournament final when the plane crashed about 10 p.m. on Monday.
The aircraft carried 72 passengers and nine crew members, and there were as many as six survivors, according to a statement issued by the Medellín airport. The search was being hampered by low visibility and the rescue crews’ difficulty in reaching the site.
Colombian news reports said at least one of the survivors was from the soccer team and had been taken to a hospital, where he was conscious and able to speak.
The authorities said the plane had reported electrical problems as it flew near the towns of La Ceja and La Unión in the mountainous stretches around Medellín.
The South American Football Confederation said it had suspended the Copa Sudamericana, and the group’s president was headed to Medellín.
Colombia’s Blu Radio, citing an interview it conducted with Alfredo Bocanegra, Colombia’s civil aviation director, said the plane had declared an emergency as it approached Medellín. The plane was given priority to land before air traffic controllers lost contact with it.
Medellín’s mayor, Federico Gutiérrez, told Blu Radio that “emergency support, with firefighters, ambulances and the hospital network” had been activated.
Members of Chapecoense were flying to Colombia for the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana, a second-tier championship for South American clubs.
That match, the first of a two-leg final against Colombia’s Atlético Nacional, was scheduled for Wednesday in Medellín. Chapecoense beat San Lorenzo — the Argentine club that counts Pope Francis as a member — in the semifinals, and clubs like Colombia’s Atlético Junior and Argentina’s Independiente along the way.
The club, founded in 1973, had in recent years clawed its way to what is effectively the top tier, and its play in Copa Sudamericana this tournament had been its high-water mark.