An emotional Valdecia Paiva has recounted the heartbreaking moment she explained to her daughters that their father was among the victims of last week’s Colombian plane crash tragedy.
Midfielder Jose Gildeixon Clemente de Paiva, known simply as Gil, was one of 71 passengers who died when their flight from Brazil to the Colombian capital Medellin crashed around 30km from its destination.
Brazilian team Chapecoense were headed for Medellin to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana – South America’s second-tier continental club competition – with Gil one of the club’s key players.
Gil, Ms Paiva and their two young daughters, Gabi and Livia, were also preparing to move into a new family home when tragedy struck.
“I was in shock myself, but I knew I had to tell Gabi sooner rather than later,” Ms Paiva told Mail Online.
“I asked for help from the psychologist from the club, and we sat down with her together. It was the most difficult thing.
“So we started talking about her daddy, and which friends had gone on the journey with him. She named every one.
“I told her that daddy had been in an accident and that he had got really, really hurt. I emphasised how hurt he was so she would understand.
“And I said that our Father in heaven had gone to where he was to look after him, and that where he was now he wasn’t hurting anymore and that he was happy, but that he wasn’t able to come back.
“She began to cry, and she looked up at me, and she cried and cried and cried, and asked, ‘has my daddy died, mummy?’
“I cried with her and told her, ‘love, mummy’s suffering too, it’s very difficult for me. Now we are together, now it’s us three. We need to be strong to get through this’.”
Ms Paiva said she was due to celebrate her seventh wedding anniversary with her husband on Friday.
She also revealed that she has removed all photos of Gil – except one – from the family home, to stop her daughters from being overcome with emotion.
“I left one photo on display, of us four together, happy and smiling,” Ms Paiva said.
“Whenever Gabi walks passed the photo she looks at it [and] I can see the sadness over her.
“But I’ve removed the other things so she doesn’t get too distressed, and until we begin to get stronger and come to terms with it.
“And every day I will tell her and her sister what type of a father he was, a dedicated father, a loving father, who stopped at nothing to see his daughters happy, who wanted to hug them all the time, who always had time for them and always wanted to be with them.”
Ms Paiva added that one of the six survivors onboard the doomed plane, Helio Neto, had a nightmare about an airplane crash before boarding the flight.
More than 20,000 supporters filled Chapecoense’s stadium despite heavy rain to say goodbye to the club’s local-based players who died in the tragic accident.
An approximate 80,000 fans were outside the stadium, lining the roads around the venue as coffins were driven from the airport to the stadium memorial.
The coffins were placed under a tent, emblazoned with a line from the club’s anthem that read: “In happiness and in the most difficult hours. You are always a winner.”
“This is a time for pain and suffering, not for talking,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said.
“No words can diminish the suffering.”
Chapecoense vice-president Ivan Tozzo added: “It was here, on this field, where this club fought the good fight.
“This team taught us that everything is possible. We are all Chapecoense.”
The club were well-known for their surge up the divisions in Brazilian football.
Approximately 50 coffins were driven to the stadium. Others in the crash not from the city will be buried elsewhere.