CHAPECO, Brazil – A small Brazilian city that was captivated by the rise of its modest soccer club planned on Saturday to bury the dead from a plane crash that claimed most of the team's players and staff.
A memorial service for the Chapecoense soccer club was expected to attract 100,000 people — half the city's population — to the area around the small, 20,000-capacity stadium.
The plane crashed into a muddy Andean mountainside on Monday as the club headed to the two-game final of one of Latin America's top club tournaments. Seventy-one of the 77 people on board — 19 of them players — died.
The staff at the Jardim do Eden cemetery, where some of the victims will be buried, said Friday they were used to the business of death; but not this kind tragedy.
"We bury two people every day. I've done this job for a long time, but this is different," said Dirceu Correa, caretaker of the cemetery. "It is a tragedy for the families, for the club, and also for us because we are a part of the city."
Gravediggers prepared for interments at two cemeteries where 13 people associated with the club will be buried. The rest, including the 19 players, will be transported later to other cities around Brazil for burial.
In an emotional news conference Friday, the mother of one of the victims paused in between answering questions from reporters to ask one herself.
"How are you in the press doing after losing so many colleagues?" asked Ilaides Padilha, mother of the goalkeeper Danilo, referring to the 20 journalists who were killed in the crash.
The stunned reporter, Guido Nunes of Sportv, started crying, and Padilha hugged him. "We're all in this together," she said.
Of the 100,000 visitors expected around the stadium on Saturday, about 20,000 will be allowed inside. The rest will be able to watch the ceremony on screens set up outside.
Brazilian President Michel Temer is scheduled to greet the planes at the airport on Saturday, but is not expected to go to the memorial. He was jeered at the recent Olympics and has decided to avoid that humiliation at a funeral.
"He should come to the stadium. No one would boo," said Osmar Machado, father of dead defender Felipe.
Associated Press producer Renata Brito contributed to this report from Chapeco, Brazil.