Among them were nearly all of Chapecoense’s squad and management team as well as 20 journalists who had been tasked with covering the team’s clash with Colombian side Atlético Nacional in the final of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s answer to the Europa League.
There were only six survivors: three players, two Bolivian crew members and one Brazilian journalist.
Club officials on Tuesday were planning a high-profile tribute to the victims at the Condá Arena stadium in Chapecó, the small Brazilian city in Santa Catarina state where Chapecoense is based.
“Our idea is to have a collective wake here at the stadium, to bring all of the dead here,” Ivan Tozzo, the club’s vice-president, was quoted as saying by the Diário Catarinense, a regional newspaper.
Investigations continued into the cause of the accident. Brazilian and Colombian newspapers carried reports suggesting the plane might have run out of fuel in the final stages of its flight.
Citing an official investigation, Colombia’s El Tiempo reported that four planes had been approaching Medellín’s airport in the lead-up to the crash.
Landing priority was given to a plane from the Viva Colombia company, which had said it was running low on fuel, while the other three, including the flight carrying the Brazilian team, were told to go into a holding pattern.
Colombia’s Rádio Caracol quoted two pilots who were preparing to land in Medellín at around the time of the accident as saying that the pilot of the doomed flight had used his radio to complain about a lack of fuel shortly before his plane went down just south of the city.
As speculation over the causes of the accident continued, South American sport voiced its grief.
“I believe that it is the saddest day in the history of South American football,” said Alejandro Domínguez, the president of Conmebol, the region’s football governing body. “There are no words to describe this pain.”
Pelé, Brazil’s “king of football”, wrote on Instagram: “The Brazilian football family is in mourning … Rest in peace my young brothers.”
Relatives of the six survivors reflected on their loved ones’ lucky escape.
“It is a miracle,” Flávio Ruschel, the father of Chapecoense defender Alan Ruschel, told Globo News as he prepared to fly to Colombia where his 27-year-old son lay in intensive care.
“We went through hours of intense suffering, almost despair. But at the same time we just kept faith in God that the worst had not happened. Not just with Alan but with all of them. We always hoped for the best until we heard he was alive.”
However, even the lucky few who made it out alive sustained severe and life-changing injuries. The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that Jakson Follmann, Chapecoense’s reserve goalkeeper, had his right leg amputated after being rushed to hospital.
The disaster also plunged Brazilian journalism into mourning. Among the dead were believed to be 20 of the 21 journalists on board.
“The death of twenty professionals in such an accident is one of the greatest tragedies to have hit journalism in recent memory,” Marcelo Rech, the executive director of journalism for the RBS news group, which lost five employees, wrote in the Diário Catarinense.
In another tribute the BBC’s Brazilian journalist Fernando Duarte remembered how one of the victims, Paulo Julio Clement, had helped him kickstart his career.
“He was a guy who told me not to be starstruck by my idols … a funny guy, very ironic,” he wrote, adding: “May the 75 rest in peace.”