Peru Mourns Popular Soccer Team Lost in Plane Crash
Undated (AP) _ LIMA, Peru (Acer team’s banners, attended an open-air rally late Wednesday and early today at the home field of Peru’s beloved Alianza Lima soccer team.
″The city and entire nation feel the pain over the irreparable loss of the valiant young men of the Alianza team,″ said Jorge Castillo, Lima’s mayor.
The Fokker F-27 twin-turboprop crashed Tuesday night in the Pacific Ocean, one mile off the Ventanilla beach on Lima’s northern outskirts, the navy said.
Aboard were Marcos Calderon, Alianza’s coach; 16 players; eight male cheerleaders; 12 team employees; and six crew members, the navy said.
The pilot, 1st Lt. Edilberto Villar, was the only known survivor.
Twelve bodies were recovered, the navy said.
Villar was rescued shortly after dawn Wednesday. He floated in choppy seas through the night using navy survival techniques, which included removing parts of his uniform and using them as a crude life preserver.
Villar was being treated at the Naval Hospital of Lima for shock and bruises. A doctor said Villar was in stable condition.
The team chartered the navy plane for a return trip to Lima, after defeating a professional team 1-0 Tuesday in Pucallpa, a jungle city 350 miles northeast of the capital, officials said.
The victory catapulted Alianza Lima into first place in Peru’s soccer league. The team is one of the nation’s most successful in the last decade.
The plane reached Lima’s Jorge Chavez international airport on schedule at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday but was unable to land because of problems with the landing gear, according to officials.
After circling the airport for two hours, the pilot was told by the control tower the landing gear was finally down and he could land.
″He (Villar) said he was going to swing around again and land and then it (the plane) disappeared″ from radar screens, said Marco Aurelio Gonzalez, general manager of the airport administration company Corpac.
After an all-night search, navy helicopters spottted wreckage about six miles from the airport. The navy spokesman said the tail section was floating and the fuselage and nose section were submerged in water about 120 feet deep.
Helicopters and patrol boats searched the water and dozens of navy infantry men combed the shore looking for bodies and wreckage. Fans, relatives and friends of the victims crowded near the shoreline watching the search.
The navy suspended the search Wednesday night when fog and rough seas made conditions hazardous. The search was to be continued today.