UPDATE 2-Soccer-Bolivian police investigate boy's death by flare

(Updates with police investigation)

Feb 21 (Reuters) - Bolivian police opened an investigation on Thursday into the death of a 14-year-old boy from a flare allegedly launched by Corinthians fans during a South American Libertadores Cup match in Oruro.

They arrested at least 12 fans of title holders Corinthians of Brazil after Wednesday night's match against home side San Jose and will be interrogating them to try to identify who set off the flare that hit the boy in the eye, killing him almost instantly.

"There was a loss of brain matter as the projectile, a plastic tube, penetrated the skull. Due to this, death was immediate," doctor Jose Maria Vargas told local media at the Hospital Obrero in Oruro where he declared the boy dead.

Local media said the remains of the flare did not correspond to the kind seen in Bolivia where football hooligans or demonstrators use carton fireworks with no plastic parts, suggesting it may have been brought into the country.

The South American football body Conmebol, whose headquarters are in Paraguay's capital Asuncion, told Reuters they were awaiting their match delegate's report before making a statement on the incident.

According to Conmebol's competition rules Corinthians could be kicked out of the present or a future tournament if it is confirmed some of their fans were responsible for the boy's death.


San Jose and club world champions Corinthians drew 1-1 at the Jesus Bermudez stadium in the mining city of Oruro, 3,700 metres above sea level, in their Group Five debut.

The boy was identified as Kevin Beltran, a San Jose fan, who was hit by the flare minutes after Corinthians took an early lead through Paolo Guerrero, the Peru striker who scored the winner against Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in Japan in December.

Despite the incident occurring early in the match, play continued and Carlos Saucedo equalised for San Jose after an hour.

Witnesses told local media the flare came from a sector occupied by Corinthians fans. Many San Jose supporters left the stadium in tears on hearing about the incident.

Angry Bolivians in the crowd shouted "murderers" at the Corinthians fans, Brazil's Globo said on its sports website (www.globoesporte.globo.com).

"I would exchange my world title for the boy's life," Corinthians coach Tite, visibly upset, told the post-match news conference and said it was not the right time to talk about football.

Corinthians posted a message on their website (www.corinthians.com.br) saying they were deeply sorry for what happened and offering to help in any way,"while knowing nothing will stop the pain caused by the incident".

(Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Quiroga in La Paz and Daniela Desantis in Asuncion; Writing by Rex Gowar in London; Editing by John Mehaffey)