South America’s soccer federation extended its condolences to the entire Chapecoense community and said its president, Luis Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin. All soccer activities were suspended until further notice, the organization said in a statement.
Elkin Ospina, mayor of La Ceja, near where the crash took place, said the priority is searching for survivors and scores of rescuers working through the night had been heartened after pulling three passengers alive from the wreckage.
Authorities and rescuers were immediately activated but an air force helicopter had to turn back because of low visibility. They urged journalists to stay away from the hard-to-access zone and stay off the roads to facilitate the entry of ambulances and rescuers. The area has been hit by heavy rains in recent days.
An ambulance transporting a male passenger with oxygen and covered in a blanket arrived on a stretcher to a local hospital, Blu Radio reported. He was apparently alive.
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, and previously had transported Venezuela’s national team.
A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight earlier Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.
The team, from the small city of Chapeco, was in the middle of a fairy tale season. It joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Sudamericana finals — the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League tournament — after defeating Argentina’s San Lorenzo squad.