Chapecoense’s Neto returns to Brazil

Rionegro (Colombia), Dec 16 (IANS) Chapecoense defender Helio Zampier Neto, one of the six survivors of the air accident in which 71 people died, has left the hospital near Medellin where he had been recovering and returned to Brazil in “good shape” and expressing gratitude to Colombia.

The specialised air-medical transport plane on which Neto traveled with his wife, Simone, a doctor, a nurse and two pilots, along with a medical team to attend to any emergency, took off from Jose Maria Cordova airport here on Thursday, reports Efe news agency.

Francisco Souto, the head of the medical mission, supervised Neto’s boarding the plane and said that “he is conscious, oriented and he’s a little afraid, as is natural.”

Before being loaded into the aircraft on a gurney, Neto bade farewell to the medical director at the San Vicente Fundacion Rionegro Hospital, Dr. Ferney Rodriguez, and the personnel who transported him and his father, Helan Zampier, who said goodbye to his son wearing a Chapecoense jersey with No.29 on the back.

The plane transporting Neto, the last survivor to be rescued from the crash site of the plane operated by Bolivia’s Lamia Airline, is scheduled to make a stop in Manaus and later to complete the five-hour flight to Chapeco.

“We’re hoping for a very calm flight. Neto is OK. The CAT scan didn’t show any hemothorax (blood in the space surrounding the lungs) and he’s finishing the antibiotics phase,” Edson Stakonski, Chapeco’s cardiologist, told reporters.

Stakonski, the head of the Unimed Chapeco Hospital, where Neto will continue to recover after the November 28 crash, said he felt “calmer” before boarding the plane.

“I’m calmer. The four (Brazilian survivors) have returned, the mission is completed. Since I arrived (in Rionegro), I’ve focused a lot on the clinical and we had enormous support from the doctors here,” he said.

Rodriguez said that Neto had been in “very critical” condition after the crash, but “thanks to his physical strength, he improved and … we could transfer him much sooner (than expected). This wasn’t in the plans; we were thinking that his recovery was going to take many days.”

Before leaving Colombia, Neto sent a videotaped message released by the Jose Maria Cordova airport, saying: “I want to thank everyone for their help and congratulate them for their marvelous work.”

Neto will continue recovering from a lung infection in Chapeco, where his physical and psychological progress will be carefully monitored.