Rafael Henzel, Chapecoense plane crash survivor, dies after football game

Brazilian journalist Rafael Henzel on 20 January 2017Image copyright

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Rafael Henzel was one of the six survivors of the 2016 crash

One of the six survivors of the plane crash that killed most of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense in 2016 has died after suffering a heart attack.

Brazilian journalist Rafael Henzel, 45, collapsed while playing football with friends on Tuesday. He was taken to hospital but died shortly after.

Chapecoense described him as a “symbol of the club’s reconstruction”.

The plane carrying 77 people, including 19 Chapecoense players, crashed in Colombia after running out of fuel.

A highly respected journalist, Henzel returned to his job at a radio station in the southern city of Chapecó after recovering from the 28 November 2016 crash.

“Throughout his brilliant career, Rafael told the story of Chapecoense,” the Chapecó club said in a tribute on its website (in Portuguese).

“The green and white pages of this institution will always remember his example of overcoming [adversity] and everything he did.”

  • How Chapecoense is still defying the odds
  • A team torn apart

Henzel was scheduled to cover the match between Chapecoense and Criciúma for national tournament Copa do Brasil on Wednesday. Chapecoense has asked Brazil’s football association to postpone it.

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Rafael Henzel being transported from Colombia to Brazil in December 2016

The plane carrying Chapecoense was flying from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia, to Medellin, in Colombia, where the team were due to play in the final of the Copa Sudamericana.

Speaking to the BBC a few weeks after the crash, Henzel said the passengers had no warning of the impending crash.

“When we were 10-15 minutes away from landing, the engines went off because the plane had ran out of fuel… I put my seat belt on and I thought that the engines would go back in a few minutes. But that didn’t happen.”

  • Listen to the interview

Henzel, who had seven ribs broken, said he could not remember the moment of the crash and that he had been the penultimate passenger to be rescued.

“My dream was to come back to my city, feel the ground under my feet. And this finally happened. It was a very special moment,” said the journalist, who published a book about the crash in 2017.

The other survivors are footballers Alan Ruschel, Helio Zemper Neto and Jakson Follmann, and crew members Ximena Suarez and Erwin Tumiri.