Disasters & Accidents

Colombia pays tributes to Brazilian soccer club plane crash victims

By Jeimmy Paola Sierra

La Union, Colombia, Nov 28 (EFE).- La Union, the Colombian city where a plane carrying Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer club crashed on Nov. 18, 2016, paid tributes on Sunday to the victims on the 5th anniversary of the tragedy.

An emotional event was held in the village of Pantalio, located on the border of the municipalities of La Union and La Ceja, to remember the 71 people killed in that crash, the six survivors, and the emergency personnel who participated in the rescue and recovery effort at Cerro Chapecoense.

The ceremony took place at a local school under the shadow of Brazilian, Colombian, Bolivian, Paraguay, and Venezuelan flags.

Diplomats, religious leaders, officials, and residents of the area who had witnessed the tragedy were among those present.

The event included performances by a symphonic band, a religious ceremony, a flypast of helicopters, an exchange of memories and reflections.

“A tribute is not a farewell to the deceased, but a see you soon,” said Father José Giraldo, who described the accident as a “seed of unity” between Colombia and Brazil.

Those who attended the event included air traffic controller Yaneth Molina in the jerseys of Colombia’s Atletico Nacional and Brazil’s Chapecoense.

Colombia’s Atletico Nacional and Brazil’s Chapecoense were to play the first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-most prestigious club competition, two days after the crash.

Molina said she was “the last person who provided service” to the Bolivian charter airline LaMia that departed from Bolivia with 77 people on board but never arrived at the airport of Rionegro, near Medellín.

“I am happy to be here commemorating that situation that was so difficult for everyone. We must pay tribute to them. It is also a way of healing…of being at peace,” Molina told EFE.

La Union’s fire brigade commander, Fabian Mejia, one of the first to reach the accident site, remembered the strong smell of fuel, the fear he felt, and the injured signaling for help using lights.

Five years after the tragedy, he expressed his frustration at not having been able to do more to help the victims that night on that mountain in the department of Antioquia.

The honorary consul of Brazil, Sergio Escobar, praised the work of “the heroes at that time,” including several inhabitants of La Union.

He also pointed out that the accident had given rise to a feeling of “brotherhood” and “solidarity” between Brazil and Colombia.

La Union Mayor Edgar Osorio also announced a sanctuary as a “monument of brotherhood.”

There is a chapel atop the fateful mountain, along with 71 crosses with victim names.

Some local inhabitants have made small museums in their homes with replicas of the plane, flags, photographs, and aircraft fragments to keep the memory of the incident alive. EFE


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