LA UNION (Colombia) • The pilot of the charter plane that crashed and killed 71 people, including members of Brazil's Chapecoense football team, shouted over the radio that he was running out of fuel and needed to make an emergency landing.
But landing priority was instead given to a plane from the VivaColombia airline, which had already reported instrument problems, reported Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper, citing crew from nearby planes.
A short while later, the Chapecoense plane's pilot told the control tower he was experiencing electrical difficulties. Then, the radio went silent, the report added.
The news appeared to confirm the account of a surviving crew member who reportedly told rescuers the plane had run out of fuel.
Doctors were treating traumatised survivors and a probe was to get underway yesterday.
On Tuesday, thousands of grieving fans in green and white filled the Chapecoense stadium in remote southern Brazil, singing about their team and chanting one by one the names of the players who died in the plane crash.
"We are champions!" they cried as club staff and relatives of the dead players joined hands in a circle on the field as part of an impromptu ceremony.
Only six people - three players, a journalist and two crew members - survived the disaster when Chapecoense's charter plane carrying the football team to a cup final crashed into a mountain en route to a Copa Sudamericana game in Medellin city on Monday night.
All six were being treated at local hospitals. Of the players, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann was recovering from the amputation of his right leg, doctors said. Defender Helio Neto remained in intensive care with severe trauma to his skull, thorax and lungs. Fellow defender Alan Ruschel underwent spine surgery.
Investigators from Brazil were flying in to join their Colombian counterparts who were checking two black boxes from the crash site on a muddy hillside in the wooded highlands near La Union town.
Soldiers guarded the wreckage overnight after rescuers left, and investigators expected to start work at first light. Britain as well as Bolivia - where the charter company Lamia is based - also sent in experts to help with the probe.
Before it crashed, the BAe 146 aircraft radioed that it was having electrical problems, and that weather conditions were poor, but there was still no official word on the cause.
NBC TV news aviation analyst John Cox yesterday said: "Once that recorder's read out, I think very quickly it will become apparent if this is a fuel issue or if the plane experienced some other kind of mechanical problem."
By Tuesday night, rescuers had recovered most of the bodies that were to be repatriated to Brazil and Bolivia, where all the members of the plane's nine-man crew were from.
Soccer-mad Brazil declared three days of mourning while Chapecoense's opponents, Atletico Nacional of Medellin, asked for the tournament to be awarded to the Brazilians, in honour of the dead.
Fellow top division Brazilian sides offered to loan players to Chapecoense and urged the national federation to give it a three-year stay against relegation while the club got back on its feet.
Football greats such as Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazilian Pele sent their condolences.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE