Demerson Costa’s face fell Thursday as he stood at the entrance of the soccer field where a week ago his team celebrated their advancement to the Copa Sudamericana final.
The father of three did not travel on the doomed flight that crashed in Colombia on Monday, killing 71 people including 19 team members of his team from Chapecó, Brazil.
“Everything in our life is part of God’s will,” the Chapecoense defender told NBC News on Thursday. “I feel relief, of course, but also very sad.”
“I still have the chance to hug and kiss my children, but my teammates can’t do that anymore,” he added.
The pilot of the plane reportedly told a Colombian air traffic controller that he had run out of fuel moments before the jet crashed into the Andes Mountains. On the audiotape, the pilot can be heard repeatedly requesting permission to land because of a “total electric failure” while a female controller gives instructions.
Recovered bodies are expected to be returned home on Friday and Saturday.
Goalkeeper Nivaldo Martins Constante is another of the few surviving players.
“Suddenly I lost everything,” said 42-year-old Constante. “I’ve known some of the athletes for five years. Some of the directors I’ve known for 11 years.”
“I had plans to end my career, but I never thought it would be like this,” said Constante, who was two games away from retirement.
Another player, Matheus Saroli, didn’t board the flight because he had forgotten his passport.
Saroli also lost his father, Coach Caio Junior, in the crash.
“Friends, me, my brother and my mum are okay. We need strength and some privacy, especially my mother and thank you all for calling and sending messages,” Saroli said in a Facebook post in Portuguese. “I was in [Sao Paulo] today and I did not board because I forgot my passport. We are strong and will get through this, thank you to all.”
An injury kept Forward Alejandro Martinuccio in Brazil but he was supposed to be on the roster to face the Atletico Nacional in the historic match in Medellin.
“Pray for my teammates please,” he tweeted in Spanish on Tuesday. “Can’t stop thinking, this is all sad. Thank you for all the messages and sorry if I can’t answer all of them.”
All the bodies of those killed in the crash have been identified and are being prepared for repatriation. Only six people survived the crash — three players, a journalist and two crew members.
“I am living one day at the time,” said Demerson about his future and the future of his team. “It’s very hard to think about what will come. All I want to do is say goodbye to my teammates with respect and honor.”