Bogota: United for the last time, this is the Brazilian football team posing together in front of a passenger jet before their doomed flight crashed in Colombia, killing 76 on board.
Chapecoense team members were pictured together in Bolivia ahead of take-off just days before the biggest game in the club’s history, the Copa Sudamerica final.
But their journey to the Colombian city of Medellin came to a devastating end when the jet crashed down in remote mountains.
The Avro RJ85 plane, which was carrying nine crew, crashed at about 10.15pm after suffering power failures while flying through the mountainous Antioquia Department on its way from Bolivia. Local officials said it crashed against a hill and broke in two.
Heartbreaking images have since emerged online showing devastated players who were not travelling with the team sitting in Chapecoense’s empty club changing room.
Separate images show two footballers, Defender Alan Ruschel and goalkeeper Danilo Padilha, posing for selfies during the journey from Brazil with Ruschel, 27, telling fans: ‘We’re coming Colombia.’
Both Ruschel and Danilo were pulled alive from the wreckage along with three others. Goalkeeper Jacson Follmann as well as passengers Rafael Correa Gobbato and Ximena Suarez also survived, officials said.
There are reports that the team had to change their flight and board the doomed aircraft after Brazilian aviation authorities prevented them from taking a charter plane.
As officials revealed 25 bodies had already been recovered, rescue teams were forced to suspend their operations amid heavy rain in the mountainous region.
A video published on the Chapecoense Facebook page showed team members readying for their journey earlier on Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.
The team, from the small city of Chapeco, was in the middle of a fairy tale season. It joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Sudamericana finals – the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League tournament – after defeating Argentina’s San Lorenzo.
‘May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests travelling with our delegation’ the club said in a brief statement on its Facebook page. The players looked happy and relaxed as they waited for permission to board.
The mayor of La Ceja, a nearby town, said on local radio, citing firefighters, that at least 25 people had been killed in the crash and about five survivors had been rescued – but few official figures were yet available.
Ambulances ferrying survivors to hospital can only get to within 30 minutes walk of the spot where the plane has crashed near the town of La Unión, it has emerged.
Rescuers on foot are having to stretcher survivors through fog which prevents them from seeing more than a few feet in front of them, local radio reported. They are then put into lorries which drive them another 700 metres to the waiting ambulances.
The pilots and cabin crew on board the plane that crashed were all Bolivian while most of the passengers were Brazilian and about 40 were part of the Chapecoense delegation.
They included 20 players, the manager Caio Junior and four other members of his coaching team including an assistant manager, a personal trainer, a kinesiologist and a masseur who is said to be among the survivors.
The club’s president and vice-president were also on board along with other club managers. The team were only about five minutes from their destination when they crashed.
Luciano Buligon, mayor of Chapecó (SC), and Plinio Filho, the chairman of the board of Chapecoense, should have been on the flight, but did not board, according to local reports.
Some of the lorries are getting stuck in mud which is making the rescue more difficult. Witnesses said they have seen five people rescued so far.
Hypothermia is another concern for those who have survived, because it is only five degrees Celsius. Nearby hospitals have been placed on ‘maximum alert’ and are preparing for injured passengers to be treated.
Video shared on Twitter claimed to have captured the exact moment the hort-haul plane, operated by a charter airline named LaMia, dropped from the radar. Shocking images also show the mangled wreckage of the plane’s wing.
Flight tracking service Flightradar24 said on Twitter the last tracking signal from flight 2933 had been received when it was at 15,500 feet, about 19 miles from its destination, which sits at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
The Avro RJ85 was produced by a company that is now part of UK’s BAE Systems. A civilian aviation database website says that the plane that it made its first flight on March 1999.