76 confirmed dead in Colombian plane crash
NEAR MEDELLIN, Colombia (CNN) — Seventy-six people are confirmed dead following a plane crash outside Medellin, Colombia.
A charter plane carrying 72 passengers — including players from Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense — crashed near Rionegro, Colombia, according to the country’s civil aviation department. Nine crew members were also on board.
The plane declared an emergency between the municipalities of La Ceja and La Union, according to a statement from Colombian aviation officials. The crash occurred in an area called Cerro El Gordo near Medellin, officials said.
The civil aviation agency had initially announced that six passengers — three players, two crew members, and one journalist — survived the crash. Authorities told CNN en Español’s Fernando Ramos over the phone that one of those survivors died on the way to the hospital.
At least two soccer players and one crew member survived, authorities said. Chapecoense players Alan Luciano Ruschel and Jackson Ragnar Follmann survived, as did crew member Ximena Suarez. Authorities did not immediately release the names of the other two survivors.
“Thank you my god,” Alissen Ruschel, Alan’s wife, wrote in an Instagram post after the crash. “…God bless and give all family members strength.”
The plane took off from Bolivia’s Viru Viru airport at 6:18 p.m. local time, according to air controller Manuel Palamas.
Officials didn’t specify what happened to the plane but did say that the wounded were being transported to medical centers.
But images of the incident show what appear to be damaged parts of the plane.
The aviation department’s statement said that passengers belonged to a Brazilian soccer team called Chapecoense.
Tattered debris emblazoned with the club’s logo was also photographed at the crash site.
The mayor of nearby Medellin said on Twitter that he is on his way to the accident site.
“The important thing here seeing that there might be survivors, it’s saving lives. That’s first and foremost,” Mayor Federico Gutierrez said. “We’re here supporting them on this very very sad story. They have our solidarity, so do their families, their friends, their countries. ”
Weather and wind
Satellite images show that scattered showers and thunderstorms have moved across the region over the last 12 hours — though no big storms nearby, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.
There likely would have been turbulence in the region due to intermittent thunderstorms and winds from around the mountains in the region, Guy says.
A statement from nearby Jose Maria Cordova airport says the accident site can only be accessed by land because of weather conditions.
The Colombian Air Force had to abort a mission to the accident site due to inclement weather, according to Colombian officials.
From Cinderella story to nightmare
Chapecoense was set to play the Colombian club team Atletico Nacional in the the first leg of the South American cup Finals on Wednesday.
The team, which is ninth in Brazil’s Serie A league, has surprised many with its performance in the tournament this year — ESPNFC billed their semifinal contest as a David versus Goliath match.
“It’s a Cinderella football story. They’ve only been in the top division in Brazil for the last couple of years, and they’ve reached the Copa Sudamericana final,” Keir Radnedge of World Soccer Magazine told CNN. “What they have achieved in the last couple of years was just amazing.”
The team said in a post on its Facebook page that it was waiting for an official announcement from Colombian aviation authorities before issuing its own statement about the crash.
The lesser-known club was founded in 1973 and has steadily risen up the ranks in recent years.
Team officials like to say that they’ve succeeded due to good management and a strategic vision, says Plus55, a Brazilian news site.
“Few remembered the name of this forgotten team,” CONMEBOL said of Chapecoense. Now the whole continent knows it.”
The team, whose stadium wasn’t even big enough to host a final by CONMEBOL (the governing body for soccer in South America) regulations, was vying to become the first Brazilian club to win the South American Cup final since 2008.
Nacional tweeted it “deeply regrets and is in solidarity with Chapecoense for the accident that occurred is awaiting for more information from the authorities.”
CONMEBOL said in a statement that it has been notified about the accident and has suspended all confederation activities.
Its president, Alejandro Dominguez, is on his way to Medellin, the statement said.