What could have been the most glorious week in the history of the  Associação Chapecoense de Futebol club came to an abrupt end when their British-made jet slammed into a mountainside on its way to Medellin, Colombia, where the underdog team was to have its first continental final. 
 
Of the 77 people on board, six persons miraculously survived the crash. 
In the minutes before the crash, the pilot of the doomed plane radioed for help. Pilot Miguel Alejandro Quiroga Murakami (36) pleaded: “''The GPS isn't working, I don't know what's happening. We have total electronic failure, total electronic failure. Vector to proceed for landing!
 
“Now I don't have radar contact. Vector to proceed for landing! Vector to proceed for landing!
 
“We're going down. Help us! Give us the vectors for the runway! Vectors for the runway! We're at 1,000 feet!”
 
There is a theory that after the electronic failure, the pilot circled the airport to off load fuel so as to prevent a blast upon impact. The doomed flight was third in line to land and crashed into a remote mountainside after being denied permission to land. Another plane was in an emergency descent at the airport at that time.
 
 
Emergency teams flew in on Colombian Air Force helicopters in response to the crash, airlifting the survivors.
 
"Micky" Quiroga's father was also a pilot, who was piloting a plane when it crashed and killed him. Micky was a year old at the time. 
 
Recently, Micky Quiroga -- who was originally from Bolivia -- had applied for Brazilian citizenship. His wife and three children are Brazilian.
Plinio Filho, the head of the club's advisory council, wept as he recalled the players saying they were off to “chase a dream.” Filho said, “'The group was like a family,” and added, “It was a group of friends, where everyone laughed a lot, even in defeat.”
 
 
Jubilant players posted selfies and videos on social media before boarding the plane and also during flight. They can be seen smiling and happy. Theirs was a moment to savor. The Chapecoense had a buoyant come-from-behind story that captivated soccer fans all over Brazil. 
 
Barbara Rocha, mother of 22-year-old Tiago Rocha Vieira, had a feeling that something was wrong, though. She said, “I felt restless all day, with a tightness in my chest. All day I had a bad feeling something was going to go wrong.” 
Tiago had just found that that he was to become a father. Now both his mother, and wife Graziele, are in mourning.
 
A last photograph taken on the plane showed managers and team players settled in their seats, wearing their team colors -- green and white -- unaware of the coming disaster.
 
Another photo, taken from within the cockpit, showed the smiling pilot, copilot, and a soccer player mugging for the camera before the crash.
 
A surviving flight attendant reportedly told rescuers that the plane ran out of fuel minutes before its scheduled landing at Jose Maria Cordova airport. One of the six survivors may not play soccer again. Goalkeeper Jackson Follman has had a leg amputated. Just two other players, Alan Ruschel and Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, survived the crash, along with a reporter and two crew members. Neto was found wounded beneath the wreckage after rescuers believed they had located all survivors and the dead. Reporter Rafael Valmorbida has survived surgery. Bolivian flight attendant Ximena Suarez and Bolivian flight technician Erwin Tumiri are believed to be in a stable condition. Among the dead were 20 Brazilian journalists. 
 
Fans of the team have joined family members of the dead team and crew to mourn at Catholic masses being celebrated for their eternal repose. 
 


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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