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Bodies of Colombia plane crash victims flown home

December 3, 2016 at 9:27 am

MEDELLIN, Colombia: The bodies of the 71 victims killed in a plane crash in Colombia that wiped out a Brazilian football team began arriving home Friday, as mourners prepared a massive funeral.

The remains of the first victim, Paraguayan crew member Gustavo Encina, were handed over to his family early Friday in a coffin draped in his country’s flag.

The other victims — 64 Brazilians, five Bolivians and a Venezuelan — will be flown home on a series of flights throughout the day.

“What we want now more than anything else is to go home, to take our friends and brothers home. The wait is the worst,” said Roberto Di Marche, a cousin of football team Chapecoense Real’s late director Nilson Folle Junior.

In the club’s hometown, the southern Brazilian city of Chapeco, more than 100,000 people — about half the city’s population — are expected to attend a memorial service Saturday in honour of the team, whose fairytale season was tragically cut short by the Monday night crash.

FIFA chief Gianni Infantino cancelled a trip to Australia to attend the funeral at the team’s stadium.

Officials said Brazilian President Michel Temer would likely be there as well.

Authorities are still investigating what caused the charter flight to smash into the mountains outside Medellin, where Chapecoense was due to play the biggest match in its history — the finals of the Copa Sudamericana, South America’s second-largest cup tournament.

A harrowing recording has emerged of the panicked pilot asking the control tower for priority to land because he was out of fuel.

Colombia’s civil aviation safety chief, Freddy Bonilla, said the plane disregarded international rules on fuel reserves.

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