World

Brazilian soccer tragedy ripples through Washington

William Yarbrough, goalkeeper of the USA National Soccer Team, practices at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., last month before leaving for Cuba for a soccer match.
William Yarbrough, goalkeeper of the USA National Soccer Team, practices at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., last month before leaving for Cuba for a soccer match. Miami Herald

Senior political leaders in Congress, at the White House and beyond expressed grief Tuesday over a plane crash that left dozens of members of an elite Brazilian soccer team dead.

The crash in Colombia also killed 20 journalists traveling with the Chapecoense squad, whose fairytale rise in recent years from Brazil’s D League to the top soccer ranks had captivated a country that reveres the sport. Seventy-one people died, including aircraft crew members.

“#Chapecoense Cinderella dream ended tragically,” Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nationals, tweeted. “Our prayers are with all those killed in heartbreaking plane crash & their loved ones.”

The plane was flying from the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz to Medellin in Colombia when it struck a hillside 150 miles south of the onetime hub of a notorious drug cartel.

Police officers and rescue workers inspected the wreckage of a chartered airplane that crashed in a mountainous area of Colombia while carrying Brazilian first division soccer club Chapecoense team.

The disaster was the deadliest plane accident in Colombia since December 1995, when an American Airlines Boeing 727 flying from Miami crashed into a mountain in the western town of Buga near Cali, killing 151 passengers and eight crew members.

May the memory of those who lost their lives be a blessing.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former DNC chairwoman

The aviation catastrophe sent ripples through Washington and beyond in the United States, which has embraced soccer in the last quarter-century with the success of the women’s national team and the spread of youth leagues.

“May the memory of those who lost their lives be a blessing,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

“I join the people of Colombia and Brazil and every nation affected by this disaster in mourning this tragic loss,” the South Florida lawmaker said.

Chapecoense was traveling to play Wednesday against Medellin’s Atletico Nacional team in the finals of the prestigious South America Cup tournament.

Ten people were believed to have survived the crash, according to news reports on the scene.

“May God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation,” the Chapecoense team said in a statement.

Brazil is the only country that has won five World Cup championships.

Brazilian President Michel Temer declared three days of national mourning and directed government agencies to help families of the dead.

“The government will do everything possible to ease the pain of the family and friends of sport and national journalism,” Temer said.

At the White House, where President Barack Obama is an avid sports fan, his senior staff conveyed their grief.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving players and staff of Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer team as well as to all of the others touched by this tragedy,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

“The American people stand with the people of Brazil and Colombia in this difficult moment,” he said.

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