Late Monday night after flying through rain and thunderstorms, flight LMI-2933 crashed in Colombia while en route to Medellín. The pilot told the control tower that the plane was experiencing electrical faults — and possibly was running out of fuel — and it was given permission to land. But it didn't make it to the airport, instead it circled a few times before dropping from the radar, and killing as many as 76 people. So where were the flight LMI-2933 victims from? It had taken off from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, but nearly all those on board were connected to the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense.
The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane had been chartered by the soccer team that is based in Chapecó, a small city of 200,000 in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Most of the team, its coaches, doctors, and accompanying journalists were all on board. There were 72 passengers, at least five of whom survived. Some were players from the team, although who and how many remains unclear.
This was a seemingly magical season that saw the underdog team rise to the top. The team had just reached the top division in 2014, and Monday night it was headed to the Copa Sudamericana, or South American Cup, the second-most important competition on the continent.
Given the accident, the match planned for Wednesday was of course canceled, and all federation soccer on the continent has been suspended as well. South America's soccer federation president Alejandro Dominguez is en route to Medellín. The head of the Chapecoense board, Plínio David de Nês Filho, spoke to one of Brazilian TV's morning news shows about his friends:
Everybody laughed so much, even in defeat... There was a great atmosphere, great joy. Yesterday morning, when I said goodbye to them, they said that they were going off to make our dreams come true. We shared this dream with all our emotion. And in the early hours of this morning, that dream came to an end.
The team's Facebook page also acknowledged the crash, saying in Portuguese, “May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation.”
Many of the nine crew members were killed — there are reports that a flight attendant and a flight technician may have survived. The charter company LaMia was based in Bolivia, but had Venezuelan origins. The Associated Press reported that the plane went through an inspection Monday in Santa Cruz and was found in good condition to fly. It had requested a direct flight path from Brazil to Colombia, but Brazilian authorities said no, saying only a Brazilian or Colombian airline could operate that route.
Rescue operations, thought largely to be a recovery of bodies, was paused but is expected to continue Monday morning as weather conditions improve.