MEDELLIN, Colombia – Five Bolivians who died when a charter plane carrying Brazilian soccer club Chapecoense crashed four days ago outside this northwestern city were repatriated on Friday.
Four caskets and an urn were driven in a hearse past a line of Colombian air force soldiers to a waiting Bolivian military jet that had been sent to Jose Maria Cordova airport, located outside Medellin.
The five Bolivian victims – pilots Miguel Quiroga and Sisy Arias, co-pilot Ovar Goytia, flight assistant Romel Vacaflores and dispatcher Alex Quispe – were among 71 people who perished when the plane operated by Bolivia’s Lamia airlines crashed in the mountains on Monday night.
The bodies of two other crew members – Paraguay’s Gustavo Encina and Venezuela’s Angel Lugo – were repatriated via commercial flights.
Two other Bolivian crew – flight attendant Ximena Suarez and technician Erwin Tumiri – were among six people who survived the crash. They are recovering at hospitals in Medellin.
The Bolivian air force’s Hercules aircraft will first fly to Pando – Quiroga’s home region – before continuing on to the eastern region of Santa Cruz, where the other four victims will be received.
Relatives of the victims and members of the Bolivian government who had arrived in Colombia to coordinate the repatriation of the bodies also are traveling on the plane.
The charter jet, which took off from the city of Santa Cruz after the team had taken a commercial fight to Bolivia, was carrying Chapecoense players, executives, coaches and other staff, along with special guests, journalists and a crew of nine.
The pilot was given priority to land after frantically alerting the control tower that the plane was running dangerously low on fuel, but he did not have enough time to get to the runway.
Chapecoense, a club based in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, was traveling to Medellin to play in the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional.
Sources with Chapecoense said the club was considering taking legal action against Lamia airlines once the process of repatriating the bodies has concluded.