La Union, Colombia: The football world mourned on Tuesday after a plane carrying a Brazilian team crashed in the mountains in Colombia, killing 71 people but miraculously leaving six survivors, officials said.
Football legends Pele and Maradona as well as current superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo led tributes to the players of Chapecoense Real, a humble team whose march to glory was cut abruptly short.
Having risen only recently from obscurity, the team was on its way to play in the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-biggest club tournament, when disaster struck.
“The pain is terrible. Just as we had made it, I will not say to the top, but to have national prominence, a tragedy like this happens,” club vice-president Ivan Tozzo told Globo SporTV. “It is very difficult, a very great tragedy.”
“I have just seen the plane and given the state it is in, it is a miracle that six people survived,” said Governor Luis Perez of Antioquia department, where the plane went down.
Doctors treated traumatised survivors and an investigation was to get underway on Wednesday into an air crash that killed 71 people and wiped out Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team en route to a cup final in Colombia.
Only six people — three players, a journalist and two crew members — survived the disaster on Monday night when Chapecoense’s charter plane hit a mountain en route to their Copa Sudamericana showdown in Medellin city.
All were being treated at local hospitals.
Of the players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann was recovering from the amputation of his right leg, doctors said.
Defender Helio Neto remained in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs.
Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spine surgery.
Investigators from Brazil were flying in to join Colombian counterparts checking two black boxes from the crash site on a muddy hillside in wooded highlands near La Union town.
Soldiers guarded the wreckage overnight after rescuers left, and investigators were to start work at first light.