Air disasters that shook the sports world on the sidelines

Over the last decade or so, there have been a number of plane crashes that have claimed the lives of several atheletes.

Published: 29th November 2016 02:35 PM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2016 09:04 PM   |  A+A-


Manchester United and Fulham players pause for a minutes silence on the game nearest to the anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster. | AFP

By Online Desk

Since the Chapecoense plane crash early Monday that killed at least 25 of its 81 passengers, the world of football has once again gone into mourning.
Flight CP-2933, heading from Sao Paulo to Medellin was carrying 81 passengers including 22-players of Chapecoense Real, a Brazilian football club, 21 sports journalists and nine crew, among others.
The plane took off from Sao Paulo and was on its way to Bolivia to play the final leg of the Copa Sudamericana, the second most prestigious club competition in South American football, against Colombia's Atletico Nacional Wednesday.
The crash, reported having occurred at 3:35 pm near Medellin, the cause of which is yet to be ascertained. However, it is said the plane attempted an emergency landing, prior to which all contact with the ground controllers was lost.

Twenty-five bodies have been recovered, and six survivors are said to have been pulled out alive. However, goalkeeper Marcos Danilo Padilha who survived the crash later succumbed to his injuries. Those to have survived the crash are defender Alan Ruschel, on loan from Brazilian club Sport Club Internacional, supporting-goalkeeper Jackson Follmann, centre-back Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, a bolivian flight attendant and a member of the team’s delegation. Reputed commentator and former footballer Mário Sérgio Pontes de Paiva is also said to have been onboard.
While the crash has dealt a fresh blow to football fans the world over, it is not the first time such a tragedy has hit the world of sports. 

Torino FC Soccer team, 4th May 1949

Torino's team rise the trophy after winning the Eusebio Cup football match SL Benfica vs Torino FC at Luz Stadium in Lisbon, on July 27, 2016.  | AFP

About 22 members of the Torino soccer club were killed when its plane crashed into a mountain near Torino, Italy, near the end of league play in Serie A, which immediately cancelled the rest of the season and declared Torino the champions.

The disaster that came to be known as the Superga Air Disaster is remembered till date. 

Manchester United team in Munich, February 6th 1958

Supporters pay their respects during a service to mark the 57th anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster . | AFP

Manchester United is reputed worldwide for its players, specifically the Class of 1992 with the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers. But the team that took the world by storm were their predecessors, the Busby Babes, managed by Sir Alexander Matthew "Matt" Busby.

The babes were returning from Belgrade where they had equalised with Red Star Belgrade to move on to the semi-finals of the UEFA European Championship 1958. The Airspeed Ambassador G-ALZU charter flight returning to Manchester had been delayed an hour and had halted at the Munich-Riem airport to refuel.

Pilot James Thain whose third attempt at starting the engine was successful, took off just after 3:00 pm but was short-lived after he was unable to lift the plane enough above the ground, crashing into a fence at the end of the runway before plowing into an empty house.

The crash killed 22 of the 43 members onboard, including seven players. An eighth player, Duncan Edwards, succumbed to his injuries two-weeks later. Coach Busby was critically injured but survived, and Captain Thain was charged with criminal negligence after pictorial proof emerged that he had ignored an icy buildup on the wings.

In 1968, Coach Busby led the United team to their first European Cup title, along with Munich disaster survivors Bobby Charlton and Bill Foulkes on the team.

Cal Poly San Luis Football team, October 29 1960

The aircraft carrying the team from California Polytech state University from San Luis Obispo California had just lifted off and was about 100 feet off the ground when the left engine failed and was quickly followed by the right engine.

The plane slammed back down to earth, splitting in two and bursting into flames on impact. 22 of the 48 people on board  were killed in the incident – 16 of the dead were Cal Poly football players.

The team manager and an alumni booster also lost their lives.

Marshall University football players, November 14th, 1970

About 36 Marshall University football players, when the aircraft crashed into a hill just short of the Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, W. Va., killing all 75 people on board.

The incident and its aftermath were made into a film "We Are Marshall."

See the trailer here:


Zambian National Soccer Team, April 27th 1993

Zambian fans celebrate with the national flag after their team's victory over Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) final football match between Zambia and Ivory Coast at stade deI'Amite in Libreville, Gabon on February 12, 2012. | AFP

In 1993, the team was well positioned to win the Africa Cup of Nations and also secured a spot in their first ever World Cup.

As their flight travelled to Senegal for a World Cup qualifier match, the left engine, unfortunately, caught fire.

The pilot accidentally then shut down the right engine, because of which the plane lost all its power. It went down about 500 yards off the coast of Libreville, killing all thirty people on board, including eighteen members of the football team.

The Andes Flight Disaster (13 October, 1972): 

Also known as the Miracle of the Andes, this is probably one of the most miraculous survival stories of the traumatic 2-month ordeal in the Andes mountains.

A chartered Uruguayan plane, Fairchild FH- 227D was flying from Uruguay to Chile with 45 passengers onboard, including the Old Christian Rugby Union Team from Uruguay, family, associates and supporters. The plane however, reportedly because of bad-weather crashed into the Andes Mountains killing 18 passengers. Search and rescue operations were organised by authorities in Uruguay, Chile and Argentina but was called off after 10 days when all passengers were presumed dead.

27 passengers had managed to survive and in the days that followed, under the leadership of team captain Marcelo Pérez, managed to stay alive by eating the bodies of their dead acquaintances. His leadership, however was short-lived when an avalanche hit the plane where they had all taken shelter, killing Perez and seven others.  

After over two-months on the mountains, two of the remaining 19 survivors, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa trekked across the Andes in a heroic journey and tracked down civilization following which the rest of the squad was rescued. Although their survival methods were widely criticised, the miracle of the Andes remains till date a story of grit, determination and will, no short of a miracle on the icy-mountain peaks.

The experience of the survivors was later documented and published by British writer Piers Paul Reid in his award winning book 1974 book, Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors in 1972.

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