Colombia plane crash: 75 killed, 6 survive, including 3 Brazilian soccer team members

NEAR MEDELLIN, Colombia — Investigators combing the wreckage of a charter plane that crashed in Colombia found a sixth survivor under the aircraft’s fuselage Tuesday morning, officials said.

Video from the scene showed rescuers carrying a man on a stretcher away from the crash site.

At least 75 people were killed in the deadly crash, Medellin Mayor Federico Gutiérrez said.

Passengers on the charter flight included players from the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, who were on their way to Colombia to compete in the first leg of the South American Cup finals. More than 20 journalists were also aboard the aircraft.

The Avro RJ85 was en route Monday night from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to Medellin when it crashed near Rionegro, Colombia, civil aviation officials said. Nine crew members were also on board.

The plane declared an emergency between the municipalities of La Ceja and La Union, according to Colombian aviation officials. The crash occurred in an area called Cerro El Gordo near Medellin, officials said.

At least three soccer players, two crew members and one journalist survived, authorities said.

Among them: defender Alan Luciano Ruschel.

In an Instagram post, Ruschel’s wife said he was hospitalized in stable condition.

“We are praying for everyone who has not yet been rescued, and for their families,” Amanda Ruschel wrote. “It is a complicated and difficult situation. Only God can give us strength.”

What happened?

The plane took off from Bolivia’s Viru Viru International Airport at 6:18 p.m. local time, according to air controller Manuel Palamas.

Officials didn’t specify what happened to the plane but said the wounded were being transported to medical centers.

Images of the crash show what appear to be damaged parts of the plane.

The aviation department’s statement said that passengers belonged to the Chapecoense team.

Tattered debris emblazoned with the club’s logo was photographed at the crash site.

Weather and wind

Satellite images show that scattered showers and thunderstorms had moved across the region over the last 12 hours — though no big storms were 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 said.

A statement from nearby Jose Maria Cordova airport said the accident site could 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 first leg of the South American Cup finals 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 its 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.”

Chapecoense had dreamed of winning the prestigious cup, Plinio David de Nes Filho, the chairman of the team’s board, told Brazil’s TV Globo on Tuesday.

“The dream was over this morning,” he said, tearing up as he told the network of the last time he saw the players.

“Yesterday morning I was saying goodbye to them,” he said. “They told me they were going in search of the dream to make this dream a reality.”

Six journalists from Fox Sports Brazil were among the 20 people aboard the aircraft on their way to cover the game, the network said.

“We express our solidarity and stand with the families of our colleagues from Fox Sports Brazil and of the players for the Chapecoense Club who perished in this tragedy,” Fox Sports said.

The lesser-known Chapecoense club was founded in 1973 and had steadily risen up the ranks in recent years.

Team officials liked to say that it succeeded due to good management and a strategic vision, said Plus55, a Brazilian news site.

“Few remembered the name of this forgotten team,” CONMEBOL, the governing body for soccer in South America, said of Chapecoense. “Now the whole continent knows it.”

The team, whose stadium wasn’t even big enough to host a final by CONMEBOL regulations, was vying to become the first Brazilian club to win the South American Cup final since 2008.

Atletico 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 it had been notified about the accident and had suspended all confederation activities.

Its president, Alejandro Dominguez, is on his way to Medellin, the statement said.