Bodies of Chapecoense Plane Crash Victims Returned To Grieving Brazilian Home Town

Fans of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense wait in front of the Arena Conda stadium to receive the bodies of the victims who died in the plane crash in Colombia, in Chapeco, Brazil December 3, 2016.REUTERS/Ricardo Moraes

The wet drizzle mirrors the mood of the grieving town of Chapeco, Brazil, as it prepared Saturday to receive the bodies of victims of a plane crash in Colombia on Monday that devastated its football team.

The Chapecoense team was on its way to the biggest game in its history, the Copa Sudamericana final, after a stunning season.

But tragedy struck just moments before landing at the Colombian city of Medellin, leaving Brazilians shocked and in mourning. Just three members of the side survived the crash along with three others; 71 people were killed in total.

Reports in Brazilian media point to the plane running low on fuel prior to crashing into a hillside close to Medellin. Bolivian President Evo Morales has vowed to take "drastic measures" to establish what caused the crash.

A memorial was to take place on Saturday at Chapeco's stadium, which has been draped with banners and the team's green and white colors.

Fans have been lining up for the vigil since Friday night and 100,000 people are expected to attend.

"I will only really believe it when we see the coffins and the families," said Pamela Lopes, 29, who arrived for the vigil at 10 pm local time Friday night. "At first there was commotion, but now a great sadness has set in."

The fifty coffins of players, staff and journalists will be placed in temporary structures at the stadium. One fan planning to join the vigil, Cleusa Eichner, 52, had mixed feelings about seeing the players' caskets.  "I can still see those players entering with their kids in their arms. I'd rather keep that image in my head, hold on to that happiness, than replace it with nothing."

Among those due to attend were Gianni Infantino, president of world soccer governing body FIFA.

Brazilian President Michel Temer will preside over a brief ceremony at the airport, but will not attend the wake in the stadium because of concerns over possible political protests, his advisers said.