Forgotten Chapecoense families waiting for answers on death flight and compensation

August 31 – Eight months after the Chapecoense air disaster that shocked the football world, the families of many of those who lost their lives say they have been abandoned both by the club and the media.

Seventy-one people including all but three of the playing squad died in the crash on the approach to Medellin, Colombia, where Chapecoense were due to play Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the final of the Copa Sudamericana last December.

The plane, operated by the charter LaMia company, apparently ran out of fuel and plunged into a mountainside and for the first few weeks after the tragedy, there was an outpouring of global emotion and sympathy.

But the Association of Families and Friends of the Victims of the Chapecoense Flight say that not enough has been done to provide answers to the many questions relatives still have.

“It was an accident waiting to happen,” Fabienne Belle, the group’s president whose husband Cesar Martins was the club physiologist, told Reuters. “Chapecoense and the companies need to take institutional responsibility for the lives that were taken from us.”

The airline’s chief executive, who was jailed pending a trial for manslaughter, denies the charges against him.  One of the main complaints is that the club insisted on hiring LaMia even after the company’s methods were questioned by players. Another is apparent lack of access to documents about the investigation.

The group, which has 54 members from 16 families, has not been given access to details of LaMia’s accident insurance and only $200,000 has reportedly been offered to each family as “humanitarian” payments.

“It felt like a consolation prize,” said Belle. “Some people want to take it because they haven’t had any income for nine months. Some families are struggling and have gone to the club to ask for handouts.”

Twenty journalists and reporters from nine different media outlets died in the crash and relatives are also expressing resentment with the media companies involved.

“The most revolting thing is that none of the companies have recognised their responsibility,” Mara Paiva, whose husband Mario Sergio was a commentator for Fox Sports, told Reuters. “The majority have washed their hands of the case and thrown it all on the club.”

In a statement Fox Sports told Reuters they had “adopted all the measures at their disposal to reduce the pain felt by the families and make them more comfortable.”

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