In an emotional interview, Brazilian soccer player Alan Ruschel has opened up about surviving the tragic plane crash that killed 19 his teammates last month.
The Chapecoense player had been seated near the back of the plane but moved forward when the team’s goalkeeper asked him to move up and sit next to him on the Nov. 29 flight.
Speaking for the first time about the devastating accident in a tearful press conference, Ruschel told reporters that he had initially resisted moving seats to allow a group of journalists to sit together, but that he changed his mind when Follman insisted, according to the BBC.
“I didn’t want to [move] but then I saw Follman and he insisted that I sit beside him,” he said. “Only God can explain why I survived the accident. He grabbed me and gave me a second chance.”
Ruschel and the goalkeeper, Jackson Follman, were among the six people to survive the horrific crash that killed 71 people aboard the plane, including 19 of his teammates.
The 27-year-old defender said he doesn’t recall the plane’s crash into the mountains near Medellin, Colombia, and that he has avoided reading the news stories about it.
“I avoid the news, but from the little I’ve seen I think it was greed on the pilot’s part,” he said, referring to claims that the pilot of the charter flight tried to fly too far without refueling the plane, according to Yahoo Sports.
Ruschel underwent spinal surgery after the crash, but he was able to walk out of the hospital and vowed to return to soccer.
“I promise to give lots more happiness to this team,” he said. “With a lot of effort and hard work I am going to be back playing again soon.”
He has also pledged to visit the families of all the players who died.
Ruschel’s comments come about a week after fellow player Hélio Hermito Zampier Neto, known professionally as Neto, awoke from a nine-day coma after the crash. Ruschel, Neto and Follman were the only players who survived the tragedy.
Upon regaining consciousness, Neto had no memory of the crash and asked about the outcome of the Copa Sudamericana final, the upcoming game the team was heading toward when the crash occurred, ABC News reports.
Doctors and psychologists at the hospital said they would withhold information about the crash from Neto until his condition is stabilized. The 31-year-old suffered severe leg, back and hand injuries, according to the New York Post.
An investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing. A member of Colombia’s civil aviation authority confirmed that the plane had only enough fuel to reach its destination — but no reserves in case of emergency, according to ABC News.
A Colombian official with Civil Defense of Medellin also told the outlet that the plane’s tail clipped the top of a mountain and broke off as it approached a local airport.
Air traffic control audio recording captured pilots and controllers discussing a “fuel problem” and “total failure.” The pilots chose to bypass a scheduled refueling stop earlier in the trip, a government official told ABC.
A friendly football match has been arranged between Brazil and Colombia to raise funds for the families of the victims. The game will be played at Rio’s Olympic stadium on Jan. 25, according to Business Standard.
“It’s a match which is being organized for a special reason and I hope that we can help those families that have suffered from great loss,” Brazil’s football coordinator coach Edu Gaspar told the publication.