A plane carrying Brazilian football team Chapecoense from Bolivia to Medellín has crashed late Monday night near José María Córdova International Airport, killing at least 71 of the 77 people aboard.
Alan Ruschel of Chapecoense was the first survivor to reach the nearby Hospital de La Ceja and is in stable condition. Jackson Follmann, a goalkeeper, was also rescued alive. Local officials have also reported another player, a Brazilian journalist, and two crew members as others who have been taken to medical centers.
In all, officials have reported six survivors. They have, however, revised down the number of deaths from 75 to 71. The plane was originally believed to be carrying 81 people, but that was based upon an incorrect flight record. Only 77 were actually on board, according to the latest report from authorities.
“There is the possibility of rescuing people alive because we did not record the explosion of the aircraft,” said an official of Colombian aviation authority Aerocivil during the rescue operations, per 360 Radio.
— Fuerza Aérea Colombiana (@FuerzaAereaCol) November 29, 2016
Immediately after confirming the crash just minutes after midnight, airport officials stated that they were working with authorities to attend to the emergency, but the crash site — on Cerro Gordo in the town of La Unión — is only accessible by land due to bad weather, making the rescue operations difficult.
A Colombian Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter mission had to be canceled due to poor visibility. Ground-based rescue efforts had to be suspended roughly three hours after emergency officials arrived on the scene due to heavy rains.
— Cruz Roja Colombiana (@cruzrojacol) November 29, 2016
“This is a real tragedy,” said Medellín Mayor Federico Gutierrez. “It is very sad to confirm the accident of the plane in which the Chapecoense soccer team was traveling. I want to highlight the work of rescuers. Thanks to them, there are people alive who were taken to different hospitals.”
The mayor added that the “next step is the identification of the bodies and assist the families in this painful process. From Medellín and, I am sure that, from all Colombia, we show our solidarity with the people of Brazil and the families of the victims.”
— 360 Radio Colombia (@360RadioCo) November 29, 2016
The team, Associação Chapecoense de Futebol, was flying to Colombia’s second largest city for an upcoming Copa Sudamericana Final match against Atlético Nacional of Medellín on Wednesday. They are believed to have left Brazil on Monday before stopping in Bolivia on the way to Colombia.
CONMEBOL, the South American football federation, issued a press release saying that all its sporting activities will be suspended until further notice. Alejandro Domínguez, head of CONMEBOL, is now on his way to Medellín.
Atlético Nacional has asked the federation to award the championship to Chapecoense.
— MiOriente (@MiOriente) November 29, 2016
According to airport officials, the aircraft with the registration number CP2933 departed Santa Cruz in Bolivia at 10:00 pm and declared an emergency between the municipalities of La Ceja and La Union. The plane reported electrical faults, according to control tower at José María Córdova International Airport.
La Ceja and La Union are located roughly 22 kilometers and 37 kilometers, respectively, from the airport by ground transportation.
— Kienyke (@kienyke) November 29, 2016
The emergency team includes the Colombian Air Force; officials from the mayor’s office and firefighters of Rionegro; and police, firefighters, rescue personnel, and authorities from José María Córdova airport.
Authorities have asked that community members and other non-essential personnel stay far away from the crash site due to the fear of road collapse. It is currently rainy season throughout Colombia and weather conditions have been abnormally poor for weeks, causing major delays at airports throughout the country.