The Avio Linee Italiane (Italian Airlines) Fiat G212CP carrying the team flew into a thunderstorm on the approach to Turin and encountered conditions of low cloud and poor visibility. They were forced to descend to be able to fly visually. While descending for Turin, the aircraft crashed against the base of the rear wall of the Basilica complex at the top of the hill of Superga. Italian authorities cited low cloud, poor radio aids and an error in navigation as factors contributing to the accident.
The emotional impact the crash made on Italian sports fans was profound, as it claimed the lives of the players of a legendary team which had won the last Serie A title before the league play was interrupted in 1944 by World War II and had then returned after the conflict to win four consecutive titles (1946–1949).
At the time of the crash, Torino A.C. was leading Serie A with four games left to play in the season. The club carried on by fielding its youth team (Primavera) and in a sign of respect their opponents in each of these matches (Genoa, Palermo, Sampdoria, and Fiorentina) also fielded their youth sides. Primavera won each of the matches and the scudetto. The disaster seriously weakened the country's national side which had included up to 10 Torino players. Torino itself would not claim another title until 1976.
Of the entire squad only one player remained: Sauro Tomà missed the trip to Portugal due to injury. As well, the Hungarian star László Kubala, who was to give a guest performance in Lisbon, had just been re-united with his wife and son; the boy was ill and Kubala stayed back to help care for him, missing the fatal trip. Another youth team player, Luigi Giuliano, who played several games and scored 4 goals earlier in the season for the main squad, did not obtain the passport in time and also survived.
The son of captain Valentino Mazzola, Sandro, became a player of international fame in his own right in the 1960s playing with Inter Milan. Both father and son wore the number 10.
On May 26th, 1949 there was a charity game for the victim's families. between the "Torino Simbolo" (symbolic Torino) made up of the remaining best of the Serie A against South American giants River Plate. "La Maquina" had such immortal players like Norberto Yacono, Alfredo di Stefano and Angel Labruna. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.