THE mayor of the town nearest the site of a sporting disaster has apologised over a freakish Christmas decoration showed a plane that 19 footballers died on.
Locals in La Union near the Colombian city of Medellin were furious after waking up to see a recreation of the crashed aircraft that was carrying the Chapecoense team in 2016.
The model, thought to have been put together using strips of aluminium, was going to form part of La Union’s festive decorations as part of a bizarre homage to the 71 people who lost their lives.
But mayor Edgar Osorio has now ordered its removal in the run-up to the seventh anniversary of the horror after a barrage of criticism.
Osorio said in a statement: “Given the installation of a replica model of the plane, referencing the tragedy nearly seven years which marked our community, has generated different reactions on social media, we have taken the decision to remove it from the main park.
“The Christmas decorations were never intended to hurt peoples’ sensibility, but we understand the discomfort it has caused and therefore we offer our apologies and will proceed to remove it.”
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He added in a local radio interview: “I took the decision thinking about our Brazilian brothers.
“We have the commemoration of the accident on Tuesday and I know many of them are going to be here.
“There’s going to be a religious event and institutional acts, they always come, they do so every year.
“If at any moment someone on this planet has been offended, I offer my apologies as mayor.
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“The Christmas decorations will be lit up without the Chapecoense plane replica model.”
Angry La Union resident Oliva Mejia, venting her fury at her town hall over the replica of the plane which went down killing 71 of the 77 people on board, said: “Out of a tragedy, the only thing they’ve done is make themselves look ridiculous.”
Santiago Campuzano added: “It makes you sad, because it looks like they’re celebrating and revelling in the suffering of other people.”
Another wrote on social media: “It was so odd seeing this representation of a plane wreckage. Are we really celebrating a tragedy?”
Only three Chapecoense players survived the LaMia Flight 2933 crash, which was caused by the plane running out of fuel.
The team were hoping to land in Medellin, where they were due to play the first leg of the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final.
Goalkeeper Jakson Follmann had one of his legs amputated as a result of the accident.
Journalist Rafael Henzel, one of the six survivors, died in March 2019 after suffering a heart attack while he played football with friends.
The Brazilian team, then in the country’s Serie A, ended up being relegated to the Serie B division in 2019 and have just survived a drop to the third division with a 3-1 win against Vitoria.
Chapecoense were only able to continue competing following the tragedy after clubs in Brazil made contracted players temporarily available to them.
In March 2021 Erwin Tumiri, one of the six survivors, walked away from a coach crash that claimed the lives of 21 people.
The 30-year-old cheated death for a second time in less than five years after the packed vehicle careered down a hillside near the Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
The Chapecoense air disaster occurred in the town of La Union, about 40 miles from Medellin.
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