A chartered plane with a Brazilian first division football team, Chapecoense crashed near Medellin while on its way to the finals of a regional tournament, killing 66 people, Colombian officials said six people survived- three footballers, two crew and a journalist. One footballer who was pulled alive from the plane’s wreckage died later in hospital.
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, operated by a charter airline named LaMia, declared an emergency and lost radar contact just before 10pm on Monday (0300 GMT) because of an electrical failure, aviation authorities said. A Reuters photographer at the scene said dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage, as about 30 rescuers, police and military personnel searched the crash site. He said the plane had been split in two with only the nose and wings recognizable, and the tail end completely destroyed.
The aircraft, which had departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the Chapecoense team, club staff and journalists to the match against Atlético Nacional in Colombia’s second-largest city, which was due to be played on Wednesday.
A statement from José María Córdova airport in Medellín said the plane had declared an emergency at 10pm local time on Monday because of electrical failures. Around 15 minutes later, it crashed in a wooded, mountainous area outside Medellín, where heavy rain, fog and darkness hampered rescue efforts.
“At the moment we know that the disaster happened in Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Unión and that there were 72 passengers and nine crew on board, including the football team Chapecoense Real. There are reported to be six survivors,” the statement read. Officials originally believed there were 81 people on the plane, but the toll was lowered after it was confirmed that four people on the passenger list had failed to board the plane in Bolivia.
Later on Monday, Colombia’s civil aeronautics agency announced that it had found the plane’s two flight recorders “in perfect condition.”
Brazil has declared three days of mourning for the lost individuals.