News Toronto

Plane crash: Toronto's Brazilian community in mourning

By Sean Fitzgerald, 24 Hrs

Felipe Faccioli, left, and Steve Fernandes are co-owners of the Parkdale restaurant Mata (photo credit: Sean Fitzgerald).

Felipe Faccioli, left, and Steve Fernandes are co-owners of the Parkdale restaurant Mata (photo credit: Sean Fitzgerald).

Toronto’s Brazilian community is in mourning following a plane crash in Colombia that killed 71 people.

The plane was carrying a Brazilian soccer team, Chapecoense, that was en route to face off against Atletico Nacional in Wednesday’s Copa Sudamericana game, the first of a two-game final. Colombian authorities have reported that six people survived the accident – including three members of the team, two crew members, and a journalist. The plane crashed on the approach to José Maria Cordova International Airport, 24 kilometres from Medellin.

“Everybody has been talking about it,” said Steven Da Silva, the manager of Brasil Remittance – a Dundas West money transfer business that serves as a local meeting spot for Brazilian-Canadians in the neighbourhood.

“I actually saw the news last night, but there were no details,” Da Silva continued. “I woke up today hoping for good news. But when plane crashes are involved, the chance of good news is very rare.”

Customers and employees of Brasil Remittance found themselves discussing the plight of the survivors. Chapecoense goalkeeper Jackson Ragnar Follmann, one of the people that lived, had to get his right leg amputated and remains in critical condition, according to a hospital statement.

“You end up being scarred for life,” Da Silva said. “We’ve had that argument here today. Would you rather survive or not? It’s a tough thing to think about. No one’s going to walk away from this with just scratches.”

A few blocks away, at Brazil Bakery & Pastry, Maria Luiza Almeida sat with her daughter and granddaughter, talking about the sad news she read on Facebook. Almeida, who lives in Brasilia, has been visiting her family in Toronto for the past few months.

“She says she feels very sorry, because she knows this team,” said Cleane Almeida, translating from her mother’s Portuguese. “My brother used to live in the province, and he actually cheered for Chapecoense. He was a fan. So my mother feels sorry for all of the families, because she has been to that area a couple of times when my brother used to live there.”

Brazilian President Michel Temer has declared three days of national mourning following the crash, which could have been caused by aircraft electrical failure or a lack of fuel, according to authorities investigating the situation.

“Now is the time that you have to be together, to build a new team and support the families,” added Cleane. “It’s so horrible.”

In Parkdale, the owners of Mata Petisco Bar – a South American restaurant that serves Brazilian tapas – were in utter disbelief.

“Today when I opened the news I was just like, ‘Wait,’” said Felipe Faccioli, a huge soccer fan who came to Toronto from Brazil nine years ago. “I started looking at the names of the players, like ‘I know this guy, I know this guy...’ A bunch of the journalists were very nice guys as well.”

Steve Fernandes emphasized the importance of this game for Chapecoense, a little soccer club from Chapeco that was about to play its biggest game ever.

“This is like an anti-climatic Cinderella story,” he said. “They were going to get to their dream, and all of a sudden it was wiped away – just like that – with a plane crash.”