Seat swap may have saved Chapecoense player's life in plane crash

CHAPECO, Brazil, Dec 17 (Reuters) - A Brazilian footballer who survived the air crash that killed most of his team in Colombia last month changed seats at the last minute after a team mate encouraged him to sit beside him, he said on Saturday.

Chapecoense full back Alan Ruschel was sitting near the back of the plane when club director Cadu Gaucho asked him to move on the journey to play in the Copa Sudamericana final.

"Cadu Gaucho asked me to sit further forward and let the journalists sit together at the back," Ruschel told reporters at his first news conference since the Nov. 28 accident.

"I didn't want to but then I saw (Jackson) Follman and he insisted that I sit beside him," he added.

"Only God can explain why I survived the accident. He grabbed me and gave me a second chance."

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Plane carrying Brazilian soccer team crashes
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Plane carrying Brazilian soccer team crashes
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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Ruschel, 27, was one of only six survivors on the plane, which crashed into the mountains near Medellin. The disaster killed 71 people, including almost all the Chapecoense team, directors and staff.

Goalkeeper Follman, one of Ruschel's best friends in the team, also survived, but had part of his leg amputated. He was transferred on Saturday morning via air ambulance from Sao Paulo to a hospital in the club's home city in southern Brazil.

"I don't remember anything about the accident," Ruschel said at the Arena Conda, the club's stadium in Chapeco.

"When they told me what happened it seemed like a dream, a nightmare. Little by little they've been telling me what happened and I'm starting to understand.

"I try not to speak of the accident, I avoid the news, but from the little I've seen I think it was greed on the pilot's art."

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Relatives, teammates reunited with remains of Chapecoense plane crash victims
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Relatives, teammates reunited with remains of Chapecoense plane crash victims
Relatives of Nilson Junior Folle, one of the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real players killed in the plane crash, embrace each other close to the coffin at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
View of some coffins for players of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense Real at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Executives of Brazilian team Chapecoense Real look at a coffin of one of the team players killed in the plane crash, at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Roberto D'Machi, a relative of Nilson Junior Folle, one of the Brazilian team Chapecoense Real players killed in the plane crash, shows his sadness close to the coffin at the Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Forensic authorities say they have managed to identify all victims of Mondays crash and hope to finish their work on Thursday. Of those identified, 52 are Brazilian and 5 Bolivians as well as a single Venezuelan and Paraguayan victim each. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
The coffins of some of the Brazilian Chapecoense football team players killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, are seen at he Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
The coffins of some of the Brazilian Chapecoense football team players killed in a plane crash in the Colombian mountains, are seen at he Mortoury San Vicente in Medellin on November 30, 2016. Investigators worked Thursday to finish identifying 71 victims of a plane crash that wiped out a Brazilian football team in Colombia, left reeling by a harrowing recording of the pilot's final minutes without fuel. / AFP / LUIS ACOSTA (Photo credit should read LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images)
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The pilot of the Bolivian-run LAMIA plane has been accused of taking off without enough fuel for the flight. Bolivian authorities suspended the airline's operating license and replaced the management of its aviation authority to ensure a transparent investigation.

Ruschel promised to return to Colombia and treat his doctors there to one of the hearty barbecue meals famous in southern Brazil.

He also pledged to visit every one of the families of his compatriots who died before returning to the small town of Chapeco and continuing with the physiotherapy he needs to get fit again.

"As a lesson, this tragedy teaches that you have to keeping living," he said. "Take advantage of some things and do good for others.

"When I got here today I had the sensation that I was coming home. I promise to give lots more happiness to this team. With a lot of effort and hard work I am going to be back playing again soon."


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