Colombia plane crash: Schools shut, shops shuttered as Brazil town mourns its team
A small Brazilian town has been plunged into mourning over the loss of its football team in a plane crash in Colombia that killed 71 people.
Colombia's worst air disaster in two decades killed all but a handful of people as the Chapecoense team flew to face Atletico Nacional of Medellin in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final, South America's equivalent of the Europa League.
Three Chapecoense players were among the six people who survived the crash. Dalla Costa said defender Neto was undergoing cranial surgery and reserve goalkeeper Jackson Follmann had his leg amputated. Defender Alan Ruschel was reported in intensive care but in stable condition.
Radio journalist Rafael Valmorbida appeared to be in stable condition.
* Player managed to call his wife before dying
* Jackson Follmann's 'miracle' survival has family thanking god
* Plane crashes into jungle, killing nearly all on board
* Brazilian team's dream shattered by plane crash
* Football world sends condolences to Brazil's Chapecoense
* Small club with a short history impressing many in Brazil
Businesses have been closed and schools cancelled classes in the team's hometown of Chapeco.
Hundreds of fans decked out in the club's green and white gathered at its stadium starting in the morning. Large groups remained quietly in the stands until late in day, staring past their banners at the empty green field as the sun beat down.
An improvised shrine outside the player's entrance to the stadium filled up with jerseys, flowers and candles. A poster celebrated, in a child's handwriting, the team's meteoric ascent into top-flight Brazilian soccer.
"They never tired of climbing and now they're in heaven," it read.
"It is still hard to believe what has happened to the Chapecoense team just when it was on the rise," said Agenor Danieli, 64, a pensioner in the agricultural town of about 200,000 people in Santa Catarina state.
"We are in crisis. The town has come to a stop. Companies are giving people the day off so they can come here to the stadium. We need to pray. It still doesn't feel real."
Chapecoense's improbable rise to competing for the Sudamericana Cup title had been an inspiration to the agricultural town of some 200,000 people in the remote interior of Santa Catarina state.
"Our idea is to hold a collective wake here in our beloved stadium because everyone wants to give their support, to give an embrace," said Ivan Tozzo, the team's acting president.
Team Chairman Gelson Dalla Costa said the club's doctors were travelling to Medellín to collect the bodies.
The club's remaining players and relatives of the deceased are also scheduled to travel to Sao Paulo, where they will make the final identification of the bodies, Tozzo said.
"As you know, in an accident of this scale you can get any kind of news in the first 48 hours," he added, regarding the health of the survivors.
EMERGENCY MINUTES FROM LANDING
The BAe 146 charter plane, en route from Bolivia where the team had a stopover, went down about 10.15pm on Monday night (Tuesday NZT) with 77 people on board. Officials earlier said there were 81 people on the plane but revised that down saying four failed to make the flight.
The aircraft had reported electrical problems and declared an emergency minutes earlier as it neared its destination, Medellin airport officials said.
At the crash scene near the town of La Union in wooded highlands outside Medellin, dozens of bodies were laid out and covered with sheets around the wreckage.
The plane was shattered against a mountainside with the tail end virtually disintegrated. Rain hampered dozens of rescuers as they combed the muddy and forested area.
In addition to players, coaches and staff, 21 journalists had been on board the plane to cover the match, Brazilian news organisations said.
Two black boxes were recovered from the crash site, Colombia's government said.
The team took a regular flight to Santa Cruz in Bolivia and then went from there to Medellin on the plane run by a Bolivian-based company called LAMIA with roots in Venezuela.
It was Colombia's worst air accident since more than 160 people died on an American Airlines plane in 1995 in a mountainous area near Cali.
Bolivian civil aviation authority DGAC said the plane departed Santa Cruz under perfect conditions.
"The crew had their licenses in order, everything was in order for the flight," DGAC head Cesar Varela told journalists.
The nine crew members, including the pilots, were Bolivian.
The crash evoked memories of a series of soccer air disasters in the 20th century, including the Munich crash in 1958 that killed 23 people, among them eight Manchester United players, journalists and travelling officials.
It was the first time Chapecoense, a small club from the southern town of Chapeco which has had a fairy-tale rise since 2009 from Brazil's fourth to top division, had reached the final of a major South American club competition.
Matches were cancelled around South America, and Brazil declared three days of mourning. Atletico Nacional asked for Chapecoense to be awarded the trophy in honour of those who died.
Brazil's fellow top division teams offered to loan players to Chapecoense for next season and also asked the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to give the club a three-year exemption from relegation.
"They were the hope of our city," said Jean Panegalli, 17, a student in Chapeco, where fans were disconsolate. "They played for love of the shirt and not for money. They played with the commitment that only those who have lived here know."