RIO DE JANEIRO – Twenty journalists are among the dead in the airline crash that devastated a Brazilian soccer team, officials said Tuesday.
Colombian aviation authorities said 21 of the 81 people aboard the charter flight were journalists covering the Chapecoense team from southern Brazil and its upcoming South American Cup match in Medellin, Colombia.
Among the six survivors was journalist Rafael Valmorbida of Radio Oeste Capital, a station in the Brazilian city of Chapeco, where the team is based.
"We lost more than just a team," said the station's website. "We lost friends, partners, colleagues and family members."
The station called for prayers for Valmorbida's recovery, and for three other station journalists who died.
The journalists, all men, included cameramen, photographers, commentators and reporters from radio stations in Brazil as well as larger media outlets such as Fox and Globo, a large Brazilian conglomerate.
Among them was Globo's Ari de Araujo.
"Ari was like a brother to me," said Pedro Bassan, a sports and general news reporter at Globo who had worked with Araujo for 20 years. "I'll never have dinner with him again, or be able to get into an argument."
Bassan said Araujo was a cameraman with the "ability to shoot movie-quality video at the speed of journalism." He was traveling with the team for a special report.
Marco Guarizzo, a presenter on CBN radio in southern Brazil, said staff members were struggling with the news that director Deva Pascovicci was on the flight. The shock was so great that the station staffers had trouble producing local content, turning to material from affiliates. By the afternoon, some members of the small team, which includes two presenters and five reporters, held a meeting.
"If (Pascovicci) were here, he would want us working, and working a lot" on the story, said Guarizzo, adding that his boss was both demanding and kind.
Fox lost six journalists, including commentator Mario Sergio Pontes de Paiva, a former midfielder who played briefly for Brazil's national team in the early 1980s, and who coached for several Brazilian clubs, most recently Internacional in 2009 and Ceara in 2010.
"Amid profound sadness and consternation over what happened, we are following minute-by-minute as new information comes out," said Carlos Martinez, president of Fox Networks Group Latin America, in a statement.