A Colombia plane crash survivor, who was a member of the Chapecoense soccer team, appeared to be reading his Bible when the tragedy happened. The part he was reading spoke about God being his help and him being safe in the shadow of His wings.
Helio Neto, 31-year-old Chapecoense centre back, was described by his wife as a devout Christian who loves to read God’s word and to bring it with him wherever he goes.
“It’s the first thing he takes when he travels,” Neto’s wife Simone said.
His Bible, complete with notes of his readings, was recovered at the wreckage site and was returned to his wife by Brazilian journalist Roberto Cabrini.
Upon inspecting the holy book, Cabrini noticed the bookmark was placed at Psalm 63, part of which read:
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands … My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
His wife was extremely glad to have received her husband’s Bible.
“Here are his annotations,” she said, pointing to his notes inserted in the book. “I’m very grateful to have it back.”
Neto was one of three soccer players who survived and one of six LaMia flight 2933 survivors overall. Doctors describe his condition as “delicate,” saying he has a “serious pulmonary infection.” Neto has undergone extensive surgery on the skull, lungs, knees and wrists.
He woke up from a coma just over the weekend. Doctors said he had no memory of the plane crash and thought he was hospitalized because of an injury he sustained while playing. He asked hospital staff how the game went.
The medical team who took care of him initially decided not to tell him the news about what happened because they were unsure of how his emotions would take it.
However, Neto later became suspicious when he realized his injuries could not have resulted from playing.
“In the last hours, he had noticed several abrasions on his body, his hand, his legs, and he was already suspicious, because it isn’t common to sustain such injuries in a football match,” Dr Carlos Mendonca from the RioNegro Hospital in Medellin said. “His father had told me that he was already getting to his limit.”
The medical team finally broke the news on Monday night. They were accompanied by a psychologist as they told him about his teammates who died at the plane crash.
“We had a conversation with Neto, we talked about the accident,” Mendonca said. “This was in agreement with the hospital’s clinical team, so that there are no problems in his clinical recovery and emotional state. So, together with a psychologist, we talked with him today.”
“At the start, he became very emotional because he didn’t know, but he is strong and understood,” Mendonca added.
The doctor said the news really affected Neto, particularly because he dreamed the night before the flight that the plane would crash. He told his wife then that he didn’t want to fly.
The Colombia plane crash claimed the lives of 71 passengers, including members of the Chapecoense soccer team who were on their way to Medellin for a game against the Atletico Nacional at the first leg of the Copa Sudamericana.
Neto’s family is hoping for his full recovery.