A Bolivian-registered airplane carrying the football players of Brazilian team Chapecoense crashed in a mountainous area as it approached Medellin's Jose Maria Cordova international airport around Monday midnight, local time. The team was due to play the first leg of the South American Cup (the second most important club continental competition) final against Libertadores Cup holders Atlético Nacional on Wednesday. Five survivors out of 81 people on board have been reported.
A four-engined British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane registered CP-2339 of the Bolivian charter airline LAMIA, carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, was flying from Bolivia to Medellin when it crashed in an area called Cerro Gordo about 50 kilometers from the city. Medellin's Mayor Federico Gutierrez described it as a tragedy of huge proportions.
Poor weather conditions initially made the crash site accessible only by road. Medellin airport authorities at Medellin said and rescue operations had to be been suspended because of heavy rain in the area. It's a tragedy of huge proportions, Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the site in a mountainous area where the chartered aircraft crashed shortly before midnight local time.
Journalists were urged to stay away from the zone, which has been hit by heavy rains, and stay off the roads to facilitate the entry of ambulances and rescuers.
It is not clear what caused the crash, but Colombia had been hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms in previous hours. Aviation officials said the plane declared an emergency at 10pm local time due to an electrical failure. A Colombian airport press release, stated the pilot had reported an electrical fault to the control tower, but other sources suggested the plane may have run out of fuel, based on the lack of fire trails at the crash site, which also accounts for the five survivors who would have otherwise been engulfed by the flames.
It has also been confirmed it was the very same aircraft that brought Argentina players back to Buenos Aires from Belo Horizonte after losing 3-0 to Brazil in a World Cup qualifier on November 11. Venezuela's national team has also traveled on that airplane, it was reported.
The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) said it was suspending all activities.
The team, from the small city of Chapeco, joined Brazil's first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals last week by getting past Argentina's San Lorenzo.