“Chape”players make solemn return to Medellin crash scene

The Brazilian soccer club “Chapecoense” has made a somber return to the panorama of the airplane crash which killed 19 of their players.

On Tuesday (9th May), a delegation from the football club, including the goalkeeper Jackson Follmann, who lost part of his leg in the accident, visited the hospital in Medellin. Three players who survived the accident had received emergency treatment after being pulled from the wreckage of a chartered plane that crashed into a mountainside, killing 71 of the 77 on the flight, including 19 players.

Defender Alan Ruschel, who is recovering from spinal injuries said, “There’s nothing better than being back here to thank these people.”

“I had to see this for myself to know what happened,” Follmann said, standing in heavy rainfall that provided a sombre tone to the visit. “It was a miracle of God.” Follman, a goalkeeper, lost part of his right leg in the accident.

A warm and heartfelt welcome and military honor was given to the team which is famously known as “Chape,” when it arrived to Medellin. The team is scheduled for the second leg of the Recopa Sudamericana, which features the winners of Latin America’s top two club tournaments.

Six months ago, Chapecoense was traveling to Medellin to combat with Atletico in the Copa Sudamericana finals when its chartered plane from Bolivia crashed into a mountainside after having run out of gas just a few minutes before landing.

Along with a Brazilian journalist who survived the fatal accident, the other three survivors from the team — Ruschel, Jackson Follman and Helio Zampier Neto — are expected to attend the match as viewers.

Ruschel holds out hope of playing again. Talking to the reporters he said, “The doctors say that the recovery has been miraculous. I’m now training on a level with my teammates, and in 20 days or so I hope to be able to play again in an official game. It seems incredible, but it’s true.”

The reunite of the survivors and their one-time caregivers at the hospital was all hugs and tears on Tuesday.

“For us and for the hospital, it is very emotional to have you back,” said Dr. Ferney Alexander, the chief medical authority at the San Vicente Foundation.

“The work we did in November and December resulted in where you are now.”

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