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Plane with Brazilian Soccer Team Crashes in Colombia, 76 Dead

  • VOA Staff

Rescue workers at the wreckage of an airplane that was carrying the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense when it crashed outside Medellin, Colombia, Nov. 29, 2016.

Rescue workers at the wreckage of an airplane that was carrying the Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense when it crashed outside Medellin, Colombia, Nov. 29, 2016.

At least 76 people were killed when a plane carrying members of a Brazilian soccer team crashed Monday night outside of Medellin, Colombia.

Columbian police commander Brigadier General Jose Gerardo Acevedo said five of the 81 people aboard the chartered plane survived.

The plane, owned by the small Venezuelan airline LaMia, departed Bolivia to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana tournament when it crashed.

Rescue efforts were hindered by difficulty reaching the crash site and low visibility.

Brazilian president Michael Temer said authorities are mobilizing to help the team and families of the victims. Temer said "the government will do everything possible to alleviate the pain" of the family members of the players and the journalists who died in the crash.

The head of Columbia's civil aviation agency, Alfredo Bocanegra, said authorities cannot rule out the possibility the plane ran out of fuel before it crashed but the main focus of the investigation is on a possible electrical failure.

"Obviously in these types of investigations we cannot discard other causes. The testimony from the survivors will be valuable as other factors."

The crash has prompted the South American soccer federation to cancelled all activities until further notice. The group's president has departed for Medellin.

The mayor of the southern Brazilian city of Chapeco, home of the ill-fated soccer team, said he and other officials barley missed boarding the plane that crashed. They, instead, decided to take a commercial flight.

A video published on the team's Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight earlier Monday in Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport. It wasn't immediately clear if the team switched planes in Bolivia or just made a stopover with the same plane.

The team, from the small city of Chapeco, was in the middle of a fairy tale season. It joined Brazil's first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Sudamericana finals — the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League tournament — after defeating two of Argentina's fiercest squads, San Lorenzo and Independiente, as well as Colombia's Junior.

"This morning I said goodbye to them and they told me they were going after the dream, turning that dream into reality," Chapecoense board member told TV Globo. "The dream was over early this morning."

The team is so modest that its 22,000-seat arena was ruled by tournament organizers too small to host the final match, which was instead moved to a stadium 480 kilometers to the north in the city of Curitiba.

Some information from this report was provided by AP

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