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Plane Carrying Brazilian Soccer Players And Others Crashes In Colombia


There were 81 people on board a charter plane flying from Bolivia to the Colombian city of Medellin when it crashed earlier this morning. Among the passengers were members of a Brazilian soccer team flying to Medellin for a tournament. And let's get the latest now from reporter Pablo Medina Uribe. He is on the line via Skype from the Colombian capital Bogota. Hi, Pablo.


GREENE: So what do we know about this plane and why it went down?

URIBE: Well, there's a few theories that are being thrown around the media. One of them is that they ran out of fuel before they got to Medellin. And the other one is that they had electrical problems before they got there and the pilot had to maneuver to avoid an explosion.

GREENE: An explosion.

URIBE: Yeah.

GREENE: I mean, these are just rumors, but that's certainly something that investigators might be looking into.

URIBE: Yes. But what we do know is that when the plane crashed, it broke into three parts, and it didn't catch fire. So that's why one of the theories, the one about the fuel being running out, it's getting some ground. But we still don't know anything for sure.

GREENE: And, Pablo, just to orient people, I mean, Medellin is a major city in Colombia. I mean, many people know it from being the headquarters for years of Pablo Escobar's drug cartel. But this is a huge city with a huge international airport as I understand it, right?

URIBE: Yeah. Medellin is the second-biggest city in the country. It has two airports. This flight was going to the international airport, which is right outside the city in a suburb called Rionegro.

GREENE: And some reports have suggested that the weather has prevented people from getting to this crash site. I mean, could that - could weather have been involved here?

URIBE: Yes, it definitely was. It has been raining nonstop in Colombia for about a month. Every day it has rained, and the plane crashed between two towns in a very rural area where there's no paved roads or anything like that. So the terrain over there was very muddy. The authorities in Medellin were asking people to lend their four-by-four trucks if they could, so - to let rescuers get to the crash site. And also the rain kept going throughout the night. There was heavy fog as well, so helicopters couldn't approach, and it was very difficult to get people out of there.

GREENE: And, Pablo, what do we know about this Brazilian soccer team that was onboard?

URIBE: This is a very small soccer team. They are from a very small town in Brazil called Chapecoense. But they had a Cinderella story this year. For the past four years, they've been going up and up through the (unintelligible) systems in the Brazilian leagues. And this year, they qualified for the first time for a South American competition, and they were coming here to Medellin to play in the final of a South American Championship called the Copa Sul-Americana, which is the second most important South American soccer championship.

GREENE: All right. Well, that soccer team among the 81 people on board a charter plane that was flying from Bolivia to Colombia that crashed earlier this morning. That was journalist Pablo Medina Uribe talking to us from the Colombian capital Bogota. Pablo, thanks a lot.

URIBE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.