The chartered flight carrying a Brazilian football team ran out of fuel before crashing into a Colombian hillside, a leaked audio recording has revealed.
The pilot of the British Aerospace CP-2933 aircraft can be heard requesting permission to land, citing “fuel problems”, reports Xinhua.
An air traffic controller told the pilot to maintain a circular holding pattern while another plane with mechanical problems was given priority to land.
In the frantic final seconds of the conversation, the pilot says he is flying at an altitude of 9,000 feet (2,743 metres) and shouts “complete electrical failure, no fuel”.
Moments later, the plane slammed into the Cerro Gordo mountain on the outskirts of Medellin, killing 71 of the 77 people on board, including 19 Chapecoense footballers.
The absence of an explosion at the moment of impact added further weight to the pilot’s assertion that the plane ran out of fuel.
Authorities are investigating whether the lack of fuel was caused by a leak or because the plane did not carry enough.
An investigation into the cause of the accident is expected to take months as authorities check the aircraft’s history and data stored in two black boxes.
While the probe into the crash continued, fans of Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional de Medellin — the team Chapecoense was due to play on Wednesday in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final — staged candlelight vigils at their respective stadiums.
Tens of thousands of fans turned up clad in white at Atletico Nacional’s Atanasio Girardot Stadium in a moving display of solidarity with the Brazilian club.
“Everybody has been so affected by this. We have come here to show our support for Chapecoense and the families of all the people who died,” Atletico Nacional fan Liliana Echeverry said.
It was not the first heartwarming gesture from Atletico Nacional since the tragedy.
On Tuesday, the Colombian outfit issued a statement requesting that Chapecoense be awarded the Copa Sudamericana title “in posthumous homage to the victims killed in the accident”.
Rival Brazilian clubs also rallied behind their crestfallen rival. Coritiba, Corinthians, Palmeiras, Portuguesa, Santos and Sao Paulo issued a joint statement in which they offered to loan players for free in 2017. They also called for Chapecoense to be exempt from relegation to Serie B for the next three seasons.
Meanwhile, players such as Lionel Messi, Neymar and Wayne Rooney also expressed their support on social media.
Chapecoense, who were struggling in Brazil’s fourth division seven years ago, were aiming to win their first continental title. The winner of the two-match Copa Sudamericana final would earn a beth in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of the UEFA Champions League.
“We have lost everything. Now we have to start again from zero. It’s so difficult to accept,” Chapecoense vice president Ivan Tozzo said.
The tragedy has also deeply affected Chapeceonse’s home of Chapeco, a city of less than 200,000 people in Brazil’s southern state of Santa Catarina.
In the past two days thousands of mourners have congregated at the club’s Conda Arena stadium, many wearing the team’s green and white colors. Most businesses and schools have remained closed.
Chapecoense officials have announced that a mass wake for victims of the crash will be held at its stadium after all of the bodies are recovered.
The six people pulled alive from the wreckage of the plane were Chapecoense footballers Helio Zampier, Alan Ruschel and Jakson Follmann; journalist Rafael Henzel; and flight attendants Ximena Suarez and Erwin Tumiri.
The most serious case is that of goalkeeper Follmann, who has had one leg partially amputated and is in danger of losing the other.
Doctors said the other survivors remained in hospital with fractures and trauma, among other injuries.
Goalkeeper Danilo was rescued alive from the crash site but later died in the hospital.(IANS)