Soldiers of the Colombian Air Force give medical attention inside a plane to the children who survived a Cessna 206 plane crash in the thick jungle, while they are transferred to Bogotá by air in San José del Guaviare, Colombia, June 9. Colombian Air Force via Reuters hide caption
Colombian Air Force via Reuters
Soldiers of the Colombian Air Force give medical attention inside a plane to the children who survived a Cessna 206 plane crash in the thick jungle, while they are transferred to Bogotá by air in San José del Guaviare, Colombia, June 9.
Colombian Air Force via Reuters
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — The rescue last week of four Indigenous children, including a baby, after 40 days lost in the Amazon jungle was made possible by a combination of modern technology and Indigenous knowhow, according to those involved in the search operation.
The children — ages 13, 9, and 4 plus an 11-month-old baby — survived a deadly plane crash that killed their mother.
Then, led by the eldest, a girl named Lesly, they managed to find food, water and shelter in the rainforest until Colombian special forces who had teamed up with Indigenous guides finally found them.
"We were convinced that they were alive and that's what kept us going," Lt. Col. Óscar Garzón, a Colombian Army officer who advised the rescue team, tells NPR.
The children — Lesly, Soleiny, Tien and Cristin — are members of the Huitoto Indigenous group. They were traveling from the southern town of Araracuara to San José del Guaviare with their mother aboard a single-engine Cessna to visit her husband, the father of two of the children.
He told reporters that he had fled the area after being threatened by a guerrilla group that he feared would try to recruit his children.
In this photo released by the Colombian military's press office, a soldier stands in front of the wreckage of a Cessna 206 on May 18. The bodies of three adults were recovered from inside the aircraft. AP hide caption
In this photo released by the Colombian military's press office, a soldier stands in front of the wreckage of a Cessna 206 on May 18. The bodies of three adults were recovered from inside the aircraft.
The search team vowed not to leave until they'd found the children
The Cessna developed engine trouble and disappeared May 1. It's currently the rainy season in the region and due to cloud cover and constant downpours, it took the army reconnaissance aircraft two weeks to locate the crash site. There, they found the dead bodies of all three adults aboard the plane, including the children's mother, Magdalena Mucutuy, 33.
The one positive sign was that the children were missing. They had been seated in the rear of the aircraft, which may have helped them survive the impact of the crash.
"Once the aircraft wreckage was found and there was no sign of the children, there was an objective: to find those children," Garzón says. "We were not going to leave that place unless we found them."
Alfredo Acosta, one of dozens of Indigenous volunteers who worked together with Colombian troops, says the children probably abandoned the crash site to get away from the dead bodies, which could attract dangerous animals, and also to look for food and water.
The children had vital knowledge and skills to survive in the jungle
They were well-prepared to forage because they were raised in the jungle, says Consuelo de Vengoechea, a Colombian anthropologist and linguist who, over the past 30 years, has studied the Huitoto culture and language — and, for part of that time, lived with the children's family near Araracuara, becoming close friends with their deceased mother.
"This was the family that opened their door to me" for doing research, de Vengoechea says.
While there, she says youngsters were constantly climbing trees, gathering edible fruit and taking part in Indigenous ceremonies in which they sang and celebrated the bounty of the jungle.
"They are taught from a very young age how to take care of themselves," de Vengoechea says. "Their parents and grandparents are all the time teaching these children what they can eat and why."
Relatives told her that while lost in the jungle, the kids consumed an Amazonian fruit known as juan soco, which is similar to passionfruit, as well as seeds from the milpesos palm tree, which are like tiny coconuts and contain oil and vitamins. They also came upon a box of food airdropped by the military.
Army Lt. Col. Óscar Garzón, who advised the search-and-rescue team. John Otis for NPR hide caption
John Otis for NPR
The kids had found an 11-pound bag of yuca flour in the airplane and kept baby Cristin alive by feeding her the flour dissolved in water. De Vengoechea says that Lesly used a leaf to drip the mixture into the baby's mouth.
Cristin turned one during their time in the jungle, and Tien, her older brother, turned five.
The kids had a mosquito net and a plastic tarp, on top of which they piled banana leaves to bunk down at night and stay warm. This was key because even in the tropical rainforest, the temperature rapidly drops after sundown. And in the constant rain, their clothes were always wet.
Indigenous guides relied on traditional knowledge during the search
The Colombian military used reconnaissance flights, infrared sensors, satellite imagery and other technology in the search for the children, and deployed 110 special forces on the ground. But the jungle was so thick that it was very slow going, Garzón says.
The forces received a huge boost from the Indigenous guides — but even they found the surroundings challenging, says Acosta.
"It was virgin jungle. You look in any direction and all you see are huge trees. It's very easy to get lost," Acosta says.
Colombian military forces help four children who survived 40 days in the Amazon jungle after their plane crashed in the department of Caqueta on June 9. Colombian Military Forces / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images hide caption
Colombian Military Forces / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Colombian military forces help four children who survived 40 days in the Amazon jungle after their plane crashed in the department of Caqueta on June 9.
Colombian Military Forces / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
They came across deer, tapirs, oncillas — which look like small tigers — and poisonous snakes. They were constantly attacked by mosquitoes, flies and ants, and sometimes ran out of food. The rain never seemed to let up.
"We were wet all the time," he says.
Rather than modern technology, the Indigenous guides leaned on tradition. Every day, they held ceremonies to ask permission of the spirits to enter the jungle. Some of them took ayahuasca, a psychedelic brew made of jungle plants, in the hopes that the hallucinogenic visions would point them in the right direction.
"They are so good at understanding this spiritual dimension and that was the best addition to the search team," Garzón says. "That's what fills the gap between what you can and cannot see in the jungle."
As the search dragged on, the fate of the children became a national obsession in Colombia.
Manuel Ranoque, the father of the two youngest children, insisted that all four were still alive and pointed out that one of his sisters was once lost in the jungle for a month but survived.
John Frank Pinchao — a Colombian policeman who in 1998 was kidnapped by Marxist guerrillas and then escaped into the jungle and was rescued after 17 days — also insisted the kids had a fighting chance, as long as they avoided mosquitoes transmitting malaria. But in a radio interview, he also warned: "There are piranhas, tarantulas and all kinds of snakes."
A rescue dog named Wilson helped locate the children — but is missing now
During the third week of the search, President Gustavo Petro announced on Twitter that the kids had been rescued — but quickly admitted that he had received erroneous information and deleted the tweet.
The main challenge in finding them was the fact that the children spent much of their time in the jungle hiding. De Vengoechea, the anthropologist, says they were probably spooked by the sound of the helicopters and were conditioned to avoid strangers in the jungle.
"They might have thought the guerrillas were coming after them," says Garzón, who points out that the troops came across an abandoned rebel encampment near the crash site.
To convince the kids to show themselves, their grandmother recorded a message for Lesly in Huitoto that was broadcast into the jungle. In it, she said: "Lesly, this is your grandmother. I am asking you a favor. You must remain calm and stay put."
In the end, it was a Belgian Shepherd rescue dog named Wilson, from the Colombian Army, who first came across the children.
"The kids, they were telling us they were joined by the dog. And it was a good sign for them because they said: 'Someone is here,'" Garzón says. (Wilson, however, has gone missing and a formal search is underway to find him).
Mientras nuestro Comandante #GeneralGiraldo, visitaba y recibía reporte del avance de salud de los pequeños que se recuperan en el @HOMILCOL, y les entregaba algunos detalles; Lesly y Soleiny le entregaron unos dibujos hechos por ellas para él amigo de Wilson. (1) pic.twitter.com/fsU0ZBb2os— Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) June 12, 2023
The children are gradually regaining their strength after a dramatic rescue
Finally, last Friday — the children's 40th day in the jungle — the search party found them about 2 1/2 miles from the crash site. Photos and videos of that moment show them sitting on the jungle floor, looking weak and emaciated, their clothes in tatters. Soldiers quickly wrapped them in space blankets.
Fidencio Valencia, the great-uncle of the four children — 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 5-year-old Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, and Cristin Ranoque Mucutuy, who is a year old. Tien and Cristin both had birthdays while in the jungle. John Otis/NPR hide caption
Fidencio Valencia, the great-uncle of the four children — 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 5-year-old Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, and Cristin Ranoque Mucutuy, who is a year old. Tien and Cristin both had birthdays while in the jungle.
"It's not just a miracle to have found them. It's a miracle they were still alive," Gen. Pedro Sánchez, the commander of the search and rescue team, told reporters.
But they were stranded in a patch of rainforest so thick there was no place for the rescue helicopter to land.
Instead, as a chopper hovered overhead, troops rappelled down to the jungle floor and then hoisted the children back up to the aircraft. Once on board, doctors treated them for dehydration and malnutrition.
"A kid from the city might get scared in the jungle. But they didn't get scared," Acosta says. "They knew how to move around. They understood the jungle because of their ancestral knowledge. That allowed them to survive."
Now the kids are being treated at the Central Military Hospital in Bogotá.
Their great-uncle, Fidencio Valencia, says they're still weak but that the color is returning to their faces.
As for Lesly, the heroine who carried her baby sister through the jungle and kept all her siblings alive, she still has a bruise on her forehead from the airplane crash.
Valencia says: "I tell her: 'Don't worry. All this will be over soon, and you will again be very beautiful."
How Colombia Indigenous kids survived 40 days after a plane crash in the jungle Led by their eldest sibling, who is 13, they managed to find food and shelter. All four, including a year-old baby, stayed safe until Colombian special forces and Indigenous guides rescued them.Was an airplane crash every single person on board died but yet two people survived? ›
Riddle. There was a plane crash and every single person died. Who survived? Answer: Married couples.Where do YOu bury the survivors if a plane crashes on the border? ›
|In a year there are 12 months. 7 months have 31 days. How many months hve 28 days?||They all do.|
|A plane crashes on the border of the US and Canada. Where do they bury the survivors?||YOu don't bury the SURVIVORS!|
The group survived by collectively deciding to eat flesh from the bodies of their dead comrades. This decision was not taken lightly, as most of the dead were classmates, close friends, or relatives. Canessa used broken glass from the aircraft windshield as a cutting tool.Has anyone survived jumping out of a plane? ›
Fifty years ago, a 23-year-old woman fell 33,333 feet from the sky and survived, making it to the Guinness World Record (GWR) for 'Highest fall survived without parachute'.What happens to the body if someone dies on a plane? ›
Once the plane lands, the body and anyone traveling with the deceased should stay where they are while the other passengers disembark. At that point, medical professionals and airport authorities take over.Do plane crash survivors get compensation? ›
Generally, an injured person may be compensated for past and future medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, past and future pain and suffering, past and future disability and any disfigurement that has resulted from the accident.How do airlines fly dead bodies home? ›
The body will be transported in the cargo hold.
The “known shipper” will place the deceased in a specialized container and the body will be placed in the cargo hold of the airplane. The funeral director on the other end will take care of getting the container to the destination funeral home.
Survivors of a plane crash that took place 50 years ago said they "have no regrets" resorting to cannibalism to prevent death long enough to be rescued, according to a report in Independent.What was the worst plane crash with survivors? ›
Cecelia Cichan (Northwest Airlines Flight 255)
Around 156 people died, including two people on the ground. Cichan's parents and brother (aged 6) were among the fatalities. Out of the deadly plane crashes with one survivor, this crash ranks number one.
The survivors started by eating strips of skin and fat, before resorting to muscle and brain. “They lost their inhibitions. They started eating out of skulls, making a cuisine out of flesh,” Piers Paul Read, the British author of Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, said.How high can a person fall and live? ›
People usually survive falls from a height of 20-25 feet (6-8 meters), but above that, things get very deadly very fast. A study done in Paris in 2005 looked at 287 victims of falls, and found that falls from 8 stories (30 meters) or higher were 100% fatal.What happened to pilot who jumped out of plane? ›
Charles Hew Crooks, 23, who had no alcohol or drugs in his system, told the pilot he was feeling sick before he fell to his death on July 29, authorities said. The death of a pilot who fell out of a twin-engine plane in North Carolina in July was an accident, according to his autopsy report.How many times do parachutes fail during skydiving? ›
Parachutes Properly Deploy 99.9% of the Time. Even when skydiving equipment is frequently assessed and replaced, the unexpected can happen. Even seemingly properly packed parachutes can fail, with one in every 1,000 parachutes not always operating at 100% efficiency.Does airline pay for death? ›
“The carrier is liable for damage sustained in the case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course in any of the operations of embarking or disembarking”.Do airlines charge to fly a dead body? ›
Airline cargo funeral shipment fees within the U.S. can range between $600 - $3,000. It is important to note that ONLY a known shipper can make arrangements to ship a dead body by cargo. A family cannot deal directly with the airline.Can you take human remains on a plane? ›
Travelers are allowed to travel with cremains in a checked bag, however it is recommended to do so in a carry-on bag to help protect the contents from the risks associated with checked baggage.Do plane crash victims feel pain? ›
In a separate filing cited by the Journal, attorneys for the families wrote that the 157 people onboard "undeniably suffered horrific emotional distress, pain and suffering, and physical impact/injury while they endured extreme G-forces, braced for impact, knew the airplane was malfunctioning, and ultimately plummeted ...How much do airline crash victims get? ›
This treaty stipulates that if an airline is found at fault for an accident, each affected passenger is to get a minimum value equal to 113,100 special drawing rights. This type of plane crash compensation currently equals approximately $170,000 per passenger.What do airlines call dead bodies? ›
This is why airlines have a nickname for dead bodies, so that they can fly undetected — they're called “Jim Wilson.” According to Sara Marsden, the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online, American Airlines even have a dedicated help desk for funeral homes that they call the American Airlines Jim Wilson Service.
Because aircraft don't have anywhere official to place a dead body - the person is simply left sitting among the passengers. They can be strapped into one seat or laid out on a row of spare seats. To help the other passengers with the upsetting event, however, the dead body is covered with a blanket.What airlines fly human remains? ›
Southwest Cargo provides professional and reliable transportation for funeral homes and mortuary services. We're committed to transporting your client's loved ones with the utmost care and respect. Reserve your shipment today by calling 1 (888) 922-9525.How a plane crashed with more than 20 people on board and everyone survived? ›
Experts attribute the high rates of survivability during airline crashes to the use of more flame resistant cabin components such as fabric and padding, safer and sturdier seat designs and improved floor lighting.Were 3 people killed when 2 planes collide? ›
Three people were killed after two planes collided over an airport on California's central coast Thursday, authorities said. The planes crashed at Watsonville Municipal Airport just before 3 p.m. as they were trying to land, said Michelle Pulido, a spokeswoman for the city of Watsonville.Who were the 2 astronauts killed in plane crash? ›
LOUIS • Astronauts Elliott See Jr. and Charles Bassett II were the lead crew for Gemini IX, a mission scheduled for May 1966. They were to rendezvous with a satellite and give Bassett a space walk, all part of the learning curve in the race to the moon.What is the most people killed in a single plane crash? ›
The most fatalities in any aviation accident in history occurred during 1977 in the Tenerife airport disaster, when 583 people were killed when two Boeing 747s collided on a runway.Are 95% of plane crashes survivable? ›
The odds of surviving a plane crash are high
The European Transport Safety Council estimates that of aircraft accidents worldwide, all passengers survived in 90 percent of the occurrences.
#1: The Tenerife Airport Disaster
The deadliest aviation accident in history actually occurred while on the ground, not in the air. In 1977, two fully loaded Boeing 747 passenger jets collided in the middle of a runway on Tenerife Island, killing 583 people.
Almost all modern large aircraft are fitted with a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS), which is designed to try to prevent mid-air collisions. The system, based on the signals from aircraft transponders, alerts pilots if a potential collision with another aircraft is imminent.Who survived 3 plane crashes? ›
|Born||14 June 1929|
|Died||30 November 2016 (aged 87)|
|Other names||Frane Selak|
All 260 people aboard the plane (251 passengers and 9 crew members) were killed, as well as five people on the ground. It is the second-deadliest aviation accident in U.S. history, behind the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979, and the second-deadliest aviation incident involving an Airbus A300.Which astronaut was murdered? ›
|Grissom in 1964|
|Born||Virgil Ivan GrissomApril 3, 1926 Mitchell, Indiana, U.S.|
|Died||January 27, 1967 (aged 40) Cape Kennedy, Florida, U.S.|
|Resting place||Arlington National Cemetery|
The first astronaut to float away from the safety of their ship without a tether was Bruce McCandless, who reached 320 feet away from the Challenger space shuttle on February 7, 1984.Who survived the worst plane crash? ›
Juliane Koepcke (LANSA Flight 508)
One of the most unbelievable plane crashes with one survivor involves the story of Juliane Koepcke. She was only 17 years old when LANSA Flight 508, a Lockheed L-188A Electra turboprop, crashed into the Amazon Rainforest.
4 Qatar Airways
Like Etihad, the airline has never had a fatal accident, and its only hull losses have come about due to hangar fires during maintenance. Qatar Airways' planes, particularly its widebodies, are some of the industry's newest designs, and its fleet as a whole has an average age of 10.9 years old.
- Air France: 347 fatalities.
- Air India: 542 fatalities.
- Air India Express: 179 fatalities.
- AirBlue: 152 fatalities.
- American Airlines: 858 fatalities.
- Avianca: 181 fatalities.
- Birgenair: 186 fatalities.
- China Airlines: 760 fatalities.
Singapore Airlines is universally lauded for its high-quality service and efficient operations, and also enjoys a reputation as one of the world's safest airlines since it has been accident-free since 2000.