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Trinidad Express / Colombia   A chartered plane carrying a Brazilian football team to the biggest match of its history crashed into a Colombian hillside and broke into pieces, killing 75 people and leaving six survivors, Colombian officials said yesterday. The British Aerospace 146 short- haul plane, operated by a charter airline with roots in Venez­uela, declared an emergency and lost radar contact just before 10 p.m. on Monday because of an electrical failure, aviation authorities said. The aircraft, which had depar­ted from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was carrying the up-and-coming Chapecoense football team from southern Brazil for today’s first leg of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin—the continent’s second-most-important championship.   “What was supposed to be a celebration has turned into a trage­dy,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez said from the search-and-rescue command centre. The club said in a brief statement on its Facebook page, “May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests travelling with our delegation.” Expressions of grief poured in from all over the football world. South America’s federation cancelled all scheduled matches in a show of solidarity, Real Madrid’s squad interrupted its training for a minute of silence and Argentina legend Diego Maradona sent his condolences to the victims’ families over Facebook. Goalkeepers, journalist  found alive  Rescuers working through the night were initially heartened after pulling three passengers alive from the wreckage. But as the hours passed, heavy rainfall and low visi­bi­lity grounded helicopters and slowed efforts to reach the crash site. At daybreak, dozens of bodies were quickly collected into white bags while rescuers scavenged through pieces of the plane’s fuselage strewn across the muddy mountainside. Images broadcast on local tele­vision showed three passengers arriving to a local hospital in ambulances on stretchers and covered in blankets, connected to an IV. Among the survivors was Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel, who doctors said suffered spinal injuries. Two goalkeepers, Danilo and Jackson Follmann, as well as a journalist travelling with the team and a Bolivian flight attendant, were found alive in the wreckage. But Danilo was later reported as dead, and authorities said another defender, Helio Zampier, had survived, amid a confusion of sometimes conflicting early reports. The aircraft is owned by LaMia, a company with roots in Venezuela and has a close relationship with several premier South American squads. Argentina’s state-run news agen­cy said the plane involved in the crash had transported Barcelona striker Lionel Messi and the national team this month from Brazil to Colombia between World Cup qualifier matches. The airliner also reportedly transported Venezuela’s national squad and several top teams from Bolivia in the past. Claim of fuel running out LaMia’s website, which is no longer online, said it operated three 146 Avro short-haul jets made by British Aerospace, with a maxi­mum range of around 2,965 kilometres (1,600 nautical miles)—about the same as the distance between Santa Cruz and Medellin, the route it was flying when it went down. Alfredo Bocanegra, the head of Colombia’s aviation authority, said initial reports suggest the aircraft was suffering electrical problems although investigators were also looking into an account from one of the survivors that the plane had run out of fuel about five minutes from its expected landing at Jose Maria Cordova airport outside Medellin. Bolivia’s civil aviation agency said the aircraft picked up the Brazilian team in Santa Cruz where players had arrived earlier in the day on a commercial flight from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Spokesman Cesar Torrico said the plane underwent an inspection before departing for Colombia and reported no problems. 

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