Brazilian football team Chapecoense were on board a plane carrying 81 people that crashed in Colombia killing 76 people, police said on Tuesday.
Chapecoense, from Brazil’s top league, had been flying in to face Atletico Nacional of Medellin in the first leg of Wednesday’s Sudamericana final, South America’s equivalent of the Europa League.
“Six people were rescued alive, but unfortunately one died. The rest of the occupants unfortunately died. The tragic toll is 76 victims,” Jose Gerardo Acevedo, regional police commander said.
A Reuters photographer at the scene said dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage as some 30 rescuers, police and military personnel searched the crash site of the plane.
He said the BAe 146 charter aircraft had split in two with only the nose and wings recognizable and the tail end completely destroyed in the crash on Monday night.
The club said in a statement that it would not be making any official comment until it had more information from Colombian authorities about the crash. Brazilian media reported that three players were among the survivors.
Flight tracking service Flightradar24 said on Twitter the last tracking signal from flight 2933 had been received when it was at 15,500 feet, about 30 km from its destination, which sits at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
The Avro RJ85 was produced by a company that is now part of UK’s BAE Systems.
The charter flight was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew, when it crashed around 10:15 p.m. on Monday. Heavy rain first hampered and then halted rescue operations. Officials told local media that bodies would be removed once the sun rose.
Brazilian news organizations reported 21 journalists had been on board.
Brazilian TV channels Globonews and SporTV identified the surviving players as defender Alan Ruschel, goalkeeper Danilo and reserve goalkeeper Jakson Follmann. It was not immediately possible to confirm survivors’ identities.
It was the first time the small club from Chapeco had reached the final of a major South American club competition but they were underdogs against a club going for a rare double after winning the Copa Libertadores in July.
Chapecoense were the 21st biggest club in Brazil in terms of revenue, bringing in £46 million reais (£10.8 million) in 2015, according to an annual rich list compiled by Brazilian bank Itau BBA.
The crash evoked memories of THE Munich air disaster in 1958, which killed 23 people, including eight Manchester United players, journalists and travelling officials.
World governing body FIFA said on Twitter its “thoughts were with the victims, their families, fans of Chapecoense and media organisations in Brazil on this tragic day”.
Brazilian President Michel Temer expressed his grief:
“I express my solidarity in this sad hour during which tragedy has beset dozens of Brazilian families,” he said, adding that Brazil’s foreign ministry and Air Force were working to assist the relatives.”
“The government will do all it can to alleviate the pain of the friends and family of sport and national journalism.”
Chapecoense qualified for the biggest game in their history after overcoming Argentine club San Lorenzo in the semi-final on away goals following a 1-1 draw in Buenos Aires and a 0-0 draw at home.
They were very much the underdogs for the match against a club going for a rare double after winning the Copa Libertadores in July.
Chapecoense were the 21st biggest club in Brazil in terms of revenue, bringing in 46 million reais ($13.5 million) in 2015, according to an annual rich list compiled by Brazilian bank Itau BBA.
The club has built its success on a frugal spending policy that eschewed big money signings and instead concentrated on blending young talent and experienced journeymen.
Their best-known player was Cleber Santana, a midfielder whose best years were spent in Spain with Atletico Madrid and Mallorca. Coach Caio Junior was also experienced, having managed at some of Brazil’s biggest clubs, Botafogo, Flamengo and Palmeiras among them
The South American football federation suspended all games and other activities following the crash.
Colombia has been hit by heavy storms which are hampering rescue efforts, the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport in Medellin said in a statement.
Alfredo Bocanegra, the head of Colombia’s aviation authority, earlier told journalists at the airport that several people had been rescued. A hospital in La Ceja tweeted it was treating a survivor.
“Fortunately we can report that two injured people have been transported to health centres in the area and around five people are being rescued for transport to hospitals.” Carlos Ivan Marquez, the director of national disaster management, said in a statement.