Footballer who survived Chapecoense plane crash takes first steps without crutches

Chapecoense player Helio Neto in a screenshot from the video posted to social media.
Chapecoense player Helio Neto in a screenshot from the video posted to social media.PHOTO: TWITTER

One of three footballers who survived a plane crash that nearly killed his entire team is walking again without crutches and even hopes to play soccer again.

Chapecoense player Helio Neto was one of six survivors of the Nov 28 tragedy which claimed the lives of 71 people, including many players and staff from the top flight Brazilian club.

Now, video footage has emerged showing 31-year-old Neto walking around without using crutches under the guidance of a physiotherapist just one month after waking up from a coma.

The central defender can be seen carefully but steadily taking a few steps, guided by a physiotherapist who holds his hands. He smiles at his success in the video, which has been shared thousands of times in his homeland, according to reports. 

"I think I will be able to play again soon. With the help of God, I will be on the field soon with the Chapecoense shirt," he said later, according to a Daily Mail report.

Neto had no memory of what happened when he initially came out of his coma and doctors decided to withhold information about the crash.

LaMia flight 2933 came down in Colombia as Chapecoense were on their way to Medellin for the biggest game in their history - the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana against Medellin's Atletico Nacional.

The Brazilian Chapecoense squad of 22 players plus 23 coaching and other staff were on board as well as other passengers and crew.

Neto was later informed of his teammates' deaths when it was judged that he would be better able to handle the devastating news.

The defender survived alongside full-back Alan Ruschel and reserve goalkeeper Jackson Follmann, who had part of his leg amputated.

Neto was hospitalised in a serious condition after the plane crash, with a lung infection and a fracture in the fifth lumbar vertebrae. Pictures at the time showed him on a stretcher being lifted from the scene.


Neto is helped by paramedics on Nov 29, 2016, after being rescued from the wreckage of the chartered airlines flight. PHOTO: AFP

Neto has subsequently been photographed back at Chapecoense talking to youth players, but needed crutches for the visit.

Social media users offered words of support for the player.

Stich1976 wrote: "Strong! Keep on moving. Everybody supports you and we want to see you again on the field. Strength!"