SAO PAULO, Brazil (AFFP) — Alan Ruschel, a defender with Brazil’s Chapecoense football club who miraculously survived the plane crash which wiped out most of the team last month, says a seat swap saved his life.
Crying in his first press conference since last month’s disaster, Ruschel said Saturday he would do “everything” to get back on the pitch when he has recovered from his injuries.
The left back was one of just six people to emerge alive from the airliner that slammed November 28 into a mountainside near Medellin, Colombia, where the side had been due to play the final of the Copa Sudamericana regional tournament.
Ruschel, 27, said a twist of fate made the difference: a request from club director Cadu Gaucho to change seats and move further up the aircraft.
“I didn’t want to leave my seat right away,” he said in the nationally televised press conference.
However, goalkeeper Jackson Follmann also called him to move up and sit next to him.
“Then I left the back and I went and sat by Follmann. That’s what I remember,” he said.
Follmann also survived, although he had to have a leg amputated. Seventy-one people, including most of the Chapecoense team’s players and staff, died.
“I have no words to explain what I’m feeling,” Ruschel said. “It’s a mix of feelings: a great happiness to be here again, seated here, but at the same time sadness for having lost so many friends.”
Doctors say Ruschel could make a full recovery in six months. The other survivors were defender Helio Neto, Brazilian radio journalist Rafael Henzel, and two Bolivian crew members, Erwin Tumiri and Ximena Suarez.
Investigations are ongoing, but Colombia’s civil aviation safety chief has said the plane disregarded international rules on fuel reserves.
A harrowing recording has emerged of the pilot radioing the control tower to report he was out of fuel.