Miracles in the Amazon: Children rescued after plane crash
There is a happy ending in the almost unbelievable story of the missing children in the Colombian rainforest: forty days after the plane crash, the four siblings were found alive.
The four fought for over a month Kinder alone in the deep rainforest – now they have been saved. After a week-long search in the Colombian Amazon, emergency services found the siblings aged 13, 9 and 4 years and one year old in the south of the country, President Gustavo Petro announced on Friday. “A joy for the whole country. The four children who have been missing in the Colombian rainforest for 40 days have been found alive,” wrote the head of state on Twitter.
He also published a photo of soldiers and indigenous people in the jungle who fed and supplied the children with water. “The joint efforts have this joy for Colombia allowed,” said the commander of the armed forces, General Helder Fernan Giraldo Bonilla. Military photos showed the four children. The smallest was carried in the arms of a soldier. The other three sat on plastic sheeting on the ground and were being cared for.
“They were alone, but they set an example of survival that will go down in history,” said Petro after his return from Cuba, where he had announced a ceasefire with the left-wing guerrilla organization ELN. “This is how these children are today, the children of peace, the children of Colombia.”
Children survived as the only passengers
Die Siblings crashed on May 1 with a Cessna 206 propeller plane in the Caquetá department in the south of the country. Private small planes are often the only way to cover longer distances in the impassable region. The children’s mother, the pilot and an indigenous leader died in the accident.
The pilot reported problems with the engine by radio before the machine crashed, according to the preliminary report from the aviation authority. The pilot had previously announced that he wanted to ditch on a river. The small plane then collided with the tops of the trees, the engine and propeller were torn off the machine and the plane fell vertically to the ground.
Apparently, the plane had already been braked heavily when it collided with the treetops, so that the impact on the ground was less severe. Hardly any damage was found in the rear of the cabin, the report said. The children may have exited the plane wreckage through the front door on the pilot’s left.
Soldiers followed in the footsteps of the siblings
While searching for the children, the soldiers found shoes, diapers, hair ties, purple scissors, a baby bottle, a shelter built from leaves and branches, and half-eaten fruit. Using the objects and traces found, the soldiers were able to reconstruct the path the children had taken so far. Accordingly, they initially removed from the crash site four kilometers to the west. Then they apparently met an obstacle and turned north. The rainforest in the region is very dense, which made the search for the missing considerably more difficult. In addition, it rains almost non-stop.
The children – three girls and a boy – are themselves part of an indigenous community, and their knowledge of the region may have helped them survive in the jungle after the crash. Her grandmother Fátima Valencia mostly trusted her eldest sister. “She was always like her mother, she took the others to the forest,” she said recently on the radio station La FM. “She knows the plants and fruits. We indigenous people learn from an early age which ones are edible and which ones aren’t.”
Case reminiscent of 1971 plane crash
The case is reminiscent of the German-Peruvian Juliane Koepcke, who survived a plane crash in the Peruvian rainforest in 1971 and was rescued ten days later. Since her parents were biologists doing research in the Amazon region, the then 17-year-old was familiar with the area and was able to make her way to a river, where she was finally found by forest workers.
According to media reports, the children in Colombia were with their mother on the way to their father, who had fled the region after constant threats from a splinter group of the guerrilla organization FARC. Although the security situation has improved after the 2016 peace agreement between the government and FARC, parts of the South American country are still controlled by illegal groups. Indigenous peoples, social activists and environmentalists in particular are repeatedly targeted by criminal gangs.