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Hibs defender mourns loss of friends in Colombia jet crash

Wreckage from a plane that crashed in the jungle carrying  Brazilian team Chapecoense near Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Reuters

Wreckage from a plane that crashed in the jungle carrying Brazilian team Chapecoense near Medellin, Colombia. Photo: Reuters

Hibernians FC defender Rodolfo Soares could hardly believe his eyes yesterday morning when he woke to the news that two of his former teammates had died in a plane crash in Colombia.

“They were both healthy, young athletes. It’s hard to believe this is true. I don’t even know what to say,” he told the Times of Malta.

The footballing world mourned yesterday as a deadly plane crash outside Medellin, Colombia, claimed the lives of at least 75 passengers, among them most of Brazil’s Chapecoense team.

Mr Soares, who has made quite a name for himself within local footballing circles after several solid performances with Premier League side Hibs, recounted his time playing alongside two of the club’s players with another club in Brazil a few years ago.

Hibernians FC’s Rodolfo Soares played with two killed in the jet.Hibernians FC’s Rodolfo Soares played with two killed in the jet.

“It was back in 2004, I remember it clearly. We kept in touch after I left, so this is a terrible shock,” he said.

The two players were Filipe Machado, a defender, and Bruno Rangel, a striker. The two were on board the Avro RJ85 flight from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to Medellin when it crashed near Rionegro, Colombia, with 72 passengers and nine crew members on board.

The players, coaches and several guests were on board the charter flight, as well as more than 20 journalists on the way to cover what was supposed to be an exciting next chapter in the Cinderella story of a team of unlikely champions.

The fairy-tale rise of Chape-coense FC – from small town football club to national heroes – has been compared to that of English Premier League champions Leicester City and conquered the imagination of many.

Six people survived the crash and were taken to local hospitals, according to authorities.

One of the survivors was defender Alan Ruschel, currently on loan from Internacional. The 27-year-old was sitting next to goalkeeper Danilo, who also survived the crash but died in hospital. Two other players, Jakson Ragnar Follmann and Hélio Hermito Zampier, were also said to be in hospital, along with journalist Rafael Valmorbida.

Social media was alight as the news of the crash first came in yesterday morning. Disbelief eventually turned to messages of support and prayers for the families of those on board the ill-fated flight.

Mr Ruschel had also been busy on social media before the plane took off, sharing images on his Snapchat account before the fatal crash tragically took so many of his teammates’ lives.

Amanda Ruschel, who is married to Alan Ruschel, posted a photo of him on Instagram alongside the message: “Thank God Alan is in the hospital, stable. We are praying for all of those who were not yet rescued and offer our support to all their relatives.”

Mr Soares meanwhile, said that his wife, Bruna, was friends with some of the deceased players’ wives. “She is upset, the news has hurt everyone who knew them,” he said.

The wreckage of the BEA Elizabethan airliner after the crash in Munich in which 23 died. Eight of the victims were Manchester United players.The wreckage of the BEA Elizabethan airliner after the crash in Munich in which 23 died. Eight of the victims were Manchester United players.

Footballing plane disasters

Every February to this day, fans congregate near Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium to commemorate the Munich Air Disaster anniversary.

The crash occurred on February 6, 1958, while the team’s plane was refuelling in Munich on the way back from a European Cup match against Red Star Belgrade. It led to the death of 23 people, including eight members of Matt Busby’s famous young team, known as the Busby Babes.

In 1993, the Zambian National team was one of the best teams in Africa. They were poised to win the African Cup of Nations and secure their first place in the World Cup but their rise to glory was cut short. On the team’s outbound journey to a qualification game in Senegal, an engine defect was reported to have downed their plane after it had refuelled in Libreville. It crashed into the Atlantic, killing all 30 passengers aboard.

‘Grande Torino’ was the historic Italian team Torino Football Club in the 1940s, five-time champions of Italy, whose players were the backbone of the Italian national team. These legends died, however, on May 4, 1949, in the plane crash known as the Superga air disaster.

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