A chartered aircraft with 81 people on board, including a Brazilian first division soccer team heading to Colombia for a tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin’s international airport.
Aviation authorities said there are reports of at least six survivors, with rescuers continuing to move people from the crash site in a mountainous area near the city of Medellin.
“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” Medellin’s Mayor Federico Gutierrez Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the site in a mountainous area outside the city where aircraft crashed.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) November 29, 2016
The Jose Maria Cordova de Rionegro airport, which serves Medellin, posted on its Twitter account: “Confirmed, the aircraft licence number CP2933 was carrying the team @ChapecoenseReal. Apparently there are survivors.”
Aviation authorities said the aircraft, a British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane operated by a Bolivian charter airline named Lamia, declared an emergency due to an electrical failure.
Authorities and rescuers were immediately activated but an air force helicopter had to turn back due to low visibility.
The aircraft, which made a stop in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil. The team was scheduled to play on Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.
The South American soccer federation cancelled all activities until further notice as a result of the crash.
The CONMEBOL federation said in a statement that its president, Alejandro Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin.
The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, aviation authorities said in a statement. Local radio said the same aircraft transported Argentina’s national squad for a match earlier this month in Brazil.
A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.
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 defeating Argentina’s legendary San Lorenzo squad.