Colombian authorities today were searching for answers to why a charter plane crashed shortly before it was to land in Medillin, killing all but six of the 77 people on board, including nearly an entire Brazilian soccer team in the midst of a storybook season. Authorities were also working to finish identifying the bodies of the victims before repatriating them to Brazil. Forensic experts have said that that process is going quickly because the crash did not include a fire. The country's aviation agency said yesterday that the British Aerospace 146's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder had been found among the wreckage strewn over a mountainside and were already being studied by experts. Initially, Colombian officials said the short-haul jet suffered an electrical failure, but there was also heavy rain when the crew declared an emergency and the plane disappeared from radar just before 10 pm Monday. Authorities also said they were not ruling out the possibility the aircraft ran out of fuel minutes before it was to land at Jose Maria Cordova airport outside Medellin, a report given to rescuers by a surviving flight attendant. Officials said they hoped to interview her Wednesday. Sadness and pain resonated across the region over the loss of most of the Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil, which had fought its way into the championship of one of South America's most prestigious tournaments just two years after working its way into Brazil's top league for the first time in decades. Pope Francis said a prayer for the victims, and thousands yesterday attended vigils in Bogota, Colombia, and Chapeco, Brazil, home of the fallen team. The aircraft, which departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was carrying the team to today's first game in the two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.
Twenty-one Brazilian journalists were traveling with the team. South America's soccer federation canceled all scheduled matches in a show of solidarity, while the Real Madrid and Barcelona clubs in Spain interrupted their training sessions for a minute of silence. Brazil's top teams offered to lend players to the small club for next season as it rebuilds, saying: "It is the minimum gesture of solidarity that is within our reach." In a moving gesture, Atletico Nacional asked that the championship title be given to Chapecoense, whose upstart run in the tournament electrified soccer-crazed Brazil. Three players were among the survivors. Alan Ruschel was reported in the most serious condition, facing surgery for a spinal fracture. Teammates Helio Zampier and Jakson Follmann also suffered multiple trauma injuries, and doctors had to amputate Follmann's right leg.
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