Heartbreaking Update on Soccer Player Caught in Quake

Body of Christian Atsu, 31, found in Antakya, Turkey, after initially being reported as rescued
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 18, 2023 5:30 AM CST
Body Found of Soccer Player Initially Reported as Rescued
Christian Atsu is seen playing for Newcastle United on Jan. 12, 2019.   (Adam Davy/PA via AP, File)

Christian Atsu, the Ghana international forward who played for Premier League clubs Chelsea and Newcastle, has died in the earthquake in Turkey. He was 31. Search teams recovered Atsu's body in the ruins of a luxury 12-story building where he'd been living in the city of Antakya, Hatay province, his manager said Saturday, per the AP. "Atsu's lifeless body was found under the rubble. At the moment, his belongings are still being removed," manager Murat Uzunmehmet told private news agency DHA. Atsu joined the Turkish club Hatayspor in September and scored the winning goal for his new team in a league game at home against Kasimpasa SK on Feb. 5, just hours before the earthquake struck in the predawn hours of Feb. 6. Antakya, the city where Hatayspor is based, is in the southern region of Turkey hardest hit by the earthquake.

Hatayspor said Atsu's body was being repatriated to Ghana. "There are no words to describe our sadness," the club tweeted. A day after the earthquake there were reports that Atsu had been rescued, but Hatayspor, after initially announcing that it had received information that Atsu was alive and on his way to the hospital, said later that the reports of a successful rescue were, heartbreakingly, mistaken and the player was still missing. It had also said the club's sporting director, Taner Savut, was still missing. Savut hasn't yet been found. "A talented player and a special person, he will always be fondly remembered by our players, staff and supporters," tweeted Newcastle, the club where Atsu spent four years. Atsu is survived by his wife, author Marie-Claire Rupio, and three children. Much more on his life and career here.

Meanwhile, search and rescue teams have saved more survivors from the ruins of the earthquake, even as the window for finding people alive continues to shrink. On the 13th day of rescue operations, a couple and their son were extracted from under an apartment building in Antakya. The child later died. The three were transferred to ambulances after spending 296 hours buried under the Kanatli apartment block in the center of the city, local TV reported. The state-run Anadolu news agency identified them as Samir Muhammed Accar, 49, his wife Ragda, 40, and their 12-year-old son. The boy later died in the hospital. The bodies of two other children were also found in the rubble, reports said, quoting a member of a Kyrgyz rescue team. On Friday evening, Turkey's death toll was 39,672, taking the number of recorded fatalities across both countries to 43,360.

(More Turkey-Syria earthquake stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.