Colombia plane crash leaves dozens dead

  • 30/11/2016
Rescue crew work in the wreckage from a plane that crashed into Colombian jungle (Reuters)
Rescue crew work in the wreckage from a plane that crashed into Colombian jungle (Reuters)

Two black boxes have been recovered from the wreckage of the charter plane that crashed in the Colombian mountains, killing 71 people. 

The plane, carrying Brazilian football team Chapecoense and a number of journalists, reported an electrical fault before crashing near the town of Medellin.

Colombia's worst air disaster in two decades came as the team from Brazil's top soccer league flew to what was expected to be one of their most important games ever.

"Chapecoense - they were having a fairytale season," Colombia-based journalist James Bargent told the Paul Henry programme. 

"As short ago as 2008 they were at the bottom division of Brazilian football, so they'd climbed through the divisions, they'd only been in the top division for three seasons and they've overachieved every year.

"What they were flying into Medellin for was the final of the Copa Sudamericana, which would've been the biggest event in the history of this football team. They've never competed in such a major international tournament, they've never really won any major cups before."

Defender Filipe Machado took posted a video on Instagram, showing the jubilant team onboard the plane at the start of its trip.

The plane, en route from Bolivia where the team had a stopover, went down about 10:15pm on Monday (local time). Initial reports said 72 passengers and a crew of nine were on board, but the number was revised to 68 passengers after confirmation four people did not get on the plane at Bolivia.

Colombia plane crash leaves dozens dead

It had reported electrical problems and declared an emergency minutes earlier as it neared its destination, Medellin airport officials said.

At the crash scene near the town of La Union in wooded highlands outside Medellin, dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage of the BAe 146.

The plane was shattered against a mountainside with the tail end virtually disintegrated. Rain hampered dozens of rescuers as they combed the muddy and forested area.

The survivors were listed as three players, a journalist and two members of the flight crew. Two of the six were in grave condition.

It was the first time Chapecoense, a small club from the southern Brazilian town of Chapeco, had reached the final of a major South American club competition.

Brazilian news organisations said 21 journalists had been on board the plane to cover the match.

Global soccer was stunned, matches were cancelled around South America, and Brazil declared three days of mourning.

Tributes to the players and the team have been flooding social media. One of football's most famous players Pele tweeted an image of the team's flag, saying in Portugese: "The Brazilian football family is in mourning. It's a tragedy. I send my condolences to the families of the deceased. Rest in peace."

"I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families," President Michel Temer said.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted his condolences. "Solidarity with the families of the victims and Brazil," he said.

Colombia's civil aviation authority named the survivors as players Alan Ruschel, Jackson Follmann and Helio Neto; journalist Rafael Valmorbida; air stewardess Ximena Suarez and flight technician Erwin Tumiri.

Flight tracking service Flightradar24 said on Twitter the last signal from flight 2933 was received when it was at 15,500 feet (4724 m), about 30 km from its destination, which sits at an altitude of 7000 feet (2133 m).

Reuters / Newshub.