Colombia plane was 'without fuel' before crash, according to pilot

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LA UNION, Colombia/CHAPECO, Brazil, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The plane that crashed in Colombia virtually wiping out an entire Brazilian soccer team was running out of fuel, had no electrical power, and was preparing for an emergency landing, according to the pilot's final words.

The disaster on Monday night killed 71 people and sent shock waves round the global soccer world.

Only six on board the LAMIA Bolivia charter flight survived, including three of the Chapecoense soccer squad en route to the biggest game in their history: the Copa Sudamericana final.

"Miss, LAMIA 933 is in total failure, total electrical failure, without fuel," Bolivian pilot Miguel Quiroga was heard telling the control tower operator at Medellin's airport on the crackly audio played by Colombian media.

SEE ALSO: Plane carrying Brazil's Chapecoense soccer team crashes in Colombia

"Fuel emergency, Miss," he added, requesting urgent permission to land.

That matched the account from the co-pilot of an Avianca plane flying close by at the time. He said he overheard the LAMIA plane reporting it was out of fuel and had to land.

"Mayday mayday ... Help us get to the runway ... Help, help," Juan Sebastian Upegui described the LAMIA pilot as saying in an audio message also played by local media.

"Then it ended ... We all started to cry."

The BAe 146, made by BAE Systems Plc, slammed into a mountainside next to La Union town outside Medellin. Besides the three players, a journalist and two crew members survived.

One survivor, Bolivian flight technician Erwin Tumiri, said he only saved himself by strict adherence to security procedure, while others panicked.

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Brazilian soccer player Alan Luciano Ruschel of Chapecoense soccer club receives medical attention after a plane crash in Antioquia, central Colombia November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Guillermo Ossa/EL TIEMPO 
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATHRescue crew work in the wreckage from a plane that crashed into Colombian jungle with Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, seen near Medellin, Colombia, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes TEMPLATE OUT
Rescuers search for survivors from the wreckage of the LAMIA airlines charter plane carrying members of the Chapecoense Real football team that crashed in the mountains of Cerro Gordo, municipality of La Union, on November 29, 2016. A charter plane carrying the Brazilian football team crashed in the mountains in Colombia late Monday, killing as many as 75 people, officials said. / AFP / Raul ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
A rescuer walks past the body of a victim from the LAMIA airlines charter plane crash in the mountains of Cerro Gordo, municipality of La Union, on November 29, 2016. A charter plane carrying the Chapocoense Real football team crashed in the mountains in Colombia late Monday, killing as many as 75 people, officials said. / AFP / Raul ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers carry one of the survivors from the LAMIA airlines charter plane carrying members of the Chapecoense Real football team that crashed in the mountains of Cerro Gordo, municipality of La Union, on November 29, 2016. A charter plane carrying the Chapocoense Real football team crashed in the mountains in Colombia late Monday, killing as many as 75 people, officials said. / AFP / Raul ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH AND INJURYRescue workers carry the body of a victim from a plane that crashed into Colombian jungle with Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense near Medellin, Colombia, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescue crew work in the wreckage from a plane that crashed into Colombian jungle with Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense near Medellin, Colombia, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Fredy Builes
A police officer stands next to the body of a victim of the LAMIA airlines charter plane crash in the mountains of Cerro Gordo, municipality of La Union, on November 29, 2016. A charter plane carrying the Chapecoense Real football team crashed in the mountains in Colombia late Monday, killing as many as 75 people, officials said. / AFP / RAUL ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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"Many passengers got up from their seats and started yelling," he told Colombia's Radio Caracol.

"I put the bag between my legs and went into the fetal position as recommended."

Bolivian flight attendant Ximena Suarez, another survivor, said the lights went out less than a minute before the plane slammed into the mountain, according to Colombian officials in Medellin.

Of the players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann was recovering from the amputation of his right leg, doctors said.

Another player, defender Helio Neto, remained in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs.

Fellow defender Alan Ruschel had spinal surgery.

Suarez and Tumiri were shaken and bruised but not in critical condition, medical staff said, while journalist Rafael Valmorbida was in intensive care for multiple rib fractures that partly collapsed a lung.

In Medellin and Chapeco, fans held homage to the team.

Dressed in white and chanting "we will never forget, this cup goes to heaven" the Atletico Nacional stadium in Medellin erupted in cheers, while others cried and white doves flew overhead. The team had been due to play Chapecoense in the regional final.

SEE ALSO: Devastating photo shows Brazilian soccer players learning about teammates' fatal plane crash

Atletico wants the trophy to be given to Chapecoense in honor of the dead.

"As far as we are concerned," the team said, "Chapecoense will forever be the champions of the Copa Sudamericana Cup 2016."

RELATED: Brazilian soccer team's plane crashes in Colombia

Tens of thousands of fans packed the Capeco's stadium for a second night.

When a video of Colombian supporters singing a club anthem was broadcast on a giant screen, the stadium exploded in song.

At what would have been kick-off time in the Cup final, the faces and names of those who died in the plane crash were shown on the screen.

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MENDOZA, ARGENTINA - DECEMBER 23: (FILE) Survivors pose for a picture in the F-227 plane's tail on December 23, 1972 in Mendoza, Argentina. On October 13th of 1972 a plane carrying the Uruguayan rugby team Old Christians to Santiago de Chile crashed in the Andes. 29 people died, including players and relatives, and only 16 survived under the most extreme conditions: hunger, temperatures up to 30 degrees below zero and isolation. Eleven days after the accident, they heard in the radio that the search had been stopped and they were presumed dead. Determined not to let themselves die, on December 12th, Nando Parrado, Roberto Canessa and Antonio Vizintín decided to leave the plane and find some help. They walked ten days and 55 kilometers to the west in the snow until mule driver Sergio Catalan found them on a riverside. On December 23th and after 72 days of isolation in the mountains, the survivors were rescued by the Air Rescue Service. This story was taken to the cinemas when in 1993 the movie âAliveâ was presented. Nowdays the survivors give lectures on survival and leadership, telling their story and sharing their experience worldwide. (Photo by Sobrevivientes de los Andes/LatinContent/Getty Images)
(FILES) A file photo taken on April 28, 1993 shows Gabonese soldiers and rescuers standing on a beach as divers search at sea for the bodies of passengers of a plane that crashed on April 27 shortly after takeoff from Libreville with players of the national Zambian football team on board. Thirty people, including 25 players and officials heading to a World Cup qualifying match, were killed in the crash. When Zambia's national football team players arrive in Libreville on February 9, 2012 they will keep a promise they made before the Africa Cup of Nations began to honor the dead from the 1993 air crash. Zambia will play the African Cup of Nations final on February 12 against Ivory Coast in Libreville. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
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INVESTIGATING THE CRASH

Investigators from Brazil have joined Colombian counterparts to check two black boxes from the crash site on a muddy hillside in wooded highlands near the town of La Union.

Bolivia, where LAMIA is based, and the United Kingdom also sent experts to help the probe.

The plane "came over my house, but there was no noise," said Nancy Munoz, 35, who grows strawberries in the area. "The engine must have gone."

Some have questioned why Chapecoense used the charter company instead of a commercial airline and why the plane did not have enough fuel for the roughly five-hour flight.

The club's vice president, Luiz Antonio Palaoro, said LAMIA had a track-record of transporting soccer teams around South America and it had used the airline previously.

"We are dealing with the humanitarian aspect of the families and the victims," Palaoro told reporters in Chapeco. "After that, we are going to have to think about restructuring the team and also in the appropriate legal measures."

LAMIA CEO Gustavo Vargas said it is at the pilot's discretion to refuel en route. There is about 4.5 hours of fuel on board and weather conditions sometimes mean it should be refueled.

"There's sometimes more or less. Weather conditions influence a lot, but he had alternatives in Bogota in case of a fuel deficiency. He had all the power to go to refuel. It's a decision that the pilot takes," Vargas told reporters in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Rescuers have recovered all of the bodies, which are to be sent to Brazil and Bolivia.

All of the crew members were Bolivian.

Forty-five of the bodies have been identified, Colombian officials said.

Since there was no fire on board, bodies are being identified by fingerprints, Julio Bitelli, Brazil's ambassador to Colombia, told Reuters.

"There's no need for family members to come," he said.

"If they want to come, that's an individual decision that we respect, and we will give all the support needed."

He said returning the bodies to Brazil was complicated by the number of victims, but air force planes were ready to take them from Medellin direct to Chapeco, in remote southern Brazil.

Soccer-mad Brazil declared three days of mourning.

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Real Madrid's players observe a minute of silence at Real Madrid's Valdebebas training ground outside Madrid, Spain, after a plane crash involving passengers including players of Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Juan Medina
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 11: A banner is held up by Brisbane Roar fans in honour of the Chapecoense players who lost their lives in a plane crash during the round 10 A-League match between the Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United at Suncorp Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Relatives, friends and fans gather at the Alejandro Villanueva stadium in Lima on December 8, 2016 for a tribute to the footballers of Peru's Alianza Lima, killed in an air crash 29 years ago and of Brazil's Chapecoense, killed in another aircraft accident in Colombia on November 28, 2016. and Chapecoense in Lima on December 08, 2016. They traveled on a charter flight, championship leaders and with a promising squad for Peru but their plane fell to the sea and took the whole team. The Alianza Lima club remembers this Thursday the 29th anniversary of this tragedy, a tribute that occurs ten days after the Chapecoense accident. / AFP / Ernesto BENAVIDES (Photo credit should read ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP/Getty Images)
PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - DECEMBER 07: Fans of Gremio show their support to their team and also pay tribute to late Chapecoense players before a match between Gremio and Atletico MG as part of Copa do Brasil Final 2016 at Arena do Gremio on December 07, 2016 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Rodrigo Ziebell/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images)
CURITIBA, BRAZIL, DECEMBER 07: Supporters pay tribute to late Chapecoense players in Couto Pereira stadium on December 07, 2016. Players of the Chapecoense soccer team were among the 77 people on board the doomed flight that crashed into mountains in northwestern Colombia. Officials said just six people were thought to have survived, including three of the players. Chapecoense had risen from obscurity to make it to the Copa Sudamericana finals against Atletico Nacional of Colombia. (Photo by Paulo Lisboa/Brazil Photo Press/LatinContent/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Fans of Gremio react during an homage for the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real victims of a plane crash in Colombia on November 29, ahead of the match between Atletico Mineiro and Gremio for the Copa do Brasil 2016 final at Mineirao stadium in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on December 7, 2016. / AFP / JEFFERSON BERNARDES (Photo credit should read JEFFERSON BERNARDES/AFP/Getty Images)
Juan Cuadrado of Juventus pause for a one minute silence in honour of the victims of a plane crash, which was carrying aboard it members of the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real, when it crashed in Colombia on November 29, ahead of the UEFA Champions League football match Juventus Vs GNK Dinamo Zagreb on December 7, 2016 at the 'Juventus Stadium' in Turin.(Photo by Loris Roselli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Fans of Chapecoense soccer team react in front of the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Fans of Chapecoense soccer team are pictured in front of the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Flowers and messages are seen next a Chapecoense soccer team flag in tribute to their players in front of the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
The Desbravador or Pioneer Monument, symbol of the city, is pictured with black stripes in tribute to players of Chapecoense soccer team in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
The Santo Antonio Cathedral, is pictured with a black banner in tribute to players of Chapecoense soccer team in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
National flags at half-mast are seen at Conmebol headquaters in Luque, Paraguay on November 29, 2016 after the air plane crash in which 76 people were killed including Chapecoense footballers and FOX Sports journalists. / AFP / NORBERTO DUARTE (Photo credit should read NORBERTO DUARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A fan of Chapecoense soccer team prays at the Arena Conda stadium in Chapeco, Brazil, November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Britain Football Soccer - Liverpool v Leeds United - EFL Cup Quarter Final - Anfield - 29/11/16 Leeds United observe a minutes silence as respect for the victims of the Colombia plane crash containing the Chapecoense players and staff before the match Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
Britain Football Soccer - Liverpool v Leeds United - EFL Cup Quarter Final - Anfield - 29/11/16 Fans hold up a banner as respect for the victims of the Colombia plane crash containing the Chapecoense players and staff before the match Action Images via Reuters / Carl Recine Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.
People attend a mass in memoriam of the players of Brazilian team Chapecoense Real killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, in Chapeco, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, on November 29, 2016. Players of the Chapecoense were among 81 people on board the doomed flight that crashed into mountains in northwestern Colombia, in which officials said just six people were thought to have survived, including three of the players. Chapecoense had risen from obscurity to make it to the Copa Sudamericana finals scheduled for Wednesday against Atletico Nacional of Colombia. / AFP / Nelson Almeida (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a mass in memoriam of the players of Brazilian team Chapecoense Real killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, in Chapeco, in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, on November 29, 2016. Players of the Chapecoense were among 81 people on board the doomed flight that crashed into mountains in northwestern Colombia, in which officials said just six people were thought to have survived, including three of the players. Chapecoense had risen from obscurity to make it to the Copa Sudamericana finals scheduled for Wednesday against Atletico Nacional of Colombia. / AFP / Nelson Almeida (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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It was a bitter twist to a fairy-tale story for Chapecoense. Since 2009, the team rose from Brazil's fourth to top division and was about to play the biggest match in its history in the first leg of the regional cup final in Medellin.

Global soccer greats from Lionel Messi to Pele sent condolences.

In the small city of Chapecó in remote southern Brazil, black and green ribbons were draped on fences, balconies and restaurant tables. Schools canceled classes, and businesses closed.

"It's a miracle," Flavio Ruschel, the father of Alan Ruschel, told Globo News as he prepared to fly to Colombia. "I don't think I'll be able to speak, just hug him and cry a lot."

Black banners hung from a cathedral downtown and wrapped around a 14-meter statue of one of the town's founding explorers.

Outside the team's Conda stadium, a group of hardcore fans put up a tent and promised to keep vigil until the bodies of their idols returned to the city.

"We were there for them in victory, and we're here for them in tragedy, rain or shine," said fan Caua Regis. "Like family."

The club is planning an open wake at their stadium, a city official said.

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