LA UNION, Colombia --Four people who were due to board the plane that crashed, killing 71 people in Colombia, have revealed how last-minute changes stopped them from getting on the flight.
The Lamia 2933 flight, carrying Brazilian football team Chapecoense, crashed late Monday near Medellin. Six of the 77 people on board survived.
Gelson Merisio, a state legislator for Santa Catarina and an ardent fan of the Brazilian club, planned to travel with the players to watch them take on Atletico Nacional in the first leg of its Copa Sudamericana final.
Merisio, 50, had been looking forward to the game only to switch his plans late on because of work commitments.
"I want to be clear, that while I was scheduled to fly on the plane with the team, I opted not to do it due to work obligations this week," he wrote in a statement on Facebook.
Later, after the severity of the crash became evident, he paid tribute to those who lost their lives.
Just three players, Jackson Ragnar Follmann, Alan Ruschel and Helio Hermito Zampier Neto, survived the crash. Three others, two crew members and a reporter also survived.
Doctors in Medellin amputated Follmann's right leg and he is currently in the hospital's intensive care unit, according to Juan David Arteaga, the Undersecretary of Social Protection for the state of Antioquia.
Arteaga says that Neto is under observation following multiple surgeries and Alan Ruschel is in the ICU.
Another of those who was originally supposed to be on the plane was journalist Ivan Carlos Agnoletto -- he said he gave up his seat for colleague Gelson Galliotto, who had always dreamed of covering such a huge game.
"The pain is still too much for me to think about if God would've saved me," Agnoletto told Globo.
"I was scheduled to cover the game, but my colleague had a huge dream to cover an international final.
"When I told Gelson Galiotto the news that he could go in my place, he could not believe it: 'Really? I'm really going?' It was his dream."
Agnoletto said he did not hear about the crash until his wife began to receive a barrage of calls with people offering their condolences.
"It was if I was dead," he added. "I went to the TV and saw the plane had crashed."
The mayor of Chapeco, Luciano Buligon, and the president of the club's board, Plinio David de Nes Filho, were also on the passenger list but missed the flight to attend a meeting in Sao Paulo.
"Only God can explain these things, and how I stayed behind," Buligon told Globo.
"It is the biggest tragedy Chapeco could go through. We lived a moment of ecstasy with our football club."
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