Four Indigenous children survived an Amazon plane crash that killed three adults and then wandered on their own in the jungle for 40 days before being found alive by Colombian soldiers.
The announcement of their rescue on Friday brought a happy ending to a saga that had captivated many Colombians. A watch with highs and lows as searchers frantically combed through the rainforest hunting for the youngsters.
President Gustavo Petro celebrated the news upon returning from Cuba. Where he signed a cease-fire with representatives of the National Liberation Army rebel group. He said he hoped to talk with them Saturday. Officials said late Friday that the youngsters were being brought to Bogota to be checked at a hospital.
An air force video showed a helicopter using lines to pull the youngsters up. Because they couldn’t land in the dense rainforest where they were found. The craft flew off in the fading light. The air force said it was going to San Jose del Guaviare, a small town on the edge of the jungle.
No details were released on how the four siblings aged 13, 9, 4 and 11 months managed to survive on their own for so long. Though they belong to an Indigenous group that lives in the remote region.
Petro called them an “example of survival” and predicted their saga “will remain in history.”
The military tweeted pictures showing a group of soldiers and volunteers posing with the children. They were wrapped in thermal blankets. One of the soldiers held a bottle to the smallest child’s lips.
The crash happened in the early hours of May 1, when the Cessna single-engine propeller plane with six passengers and a pilot declared an emergency due to an engine failure.
The small aircraft fell off the radar a short time later and a frantic search for survivors began. Two weeks after the Amazon plane crash, on May 16, a search team found the plane in a thick patch of the rainforest. And recovered the bodies of the three adults on board. But the small children were nowhere to be found.
Desperate Search Efforts and High-Stakes Rescue Operation in Dense Rainforest
Sensing that they could be alive, Colombia’s army stepped up the hunt and flew 150 soldiers with dogs into the area. Dozens of volunteers from Indigenous tribes also helped search.
During the search, in an area where visibility is greatly limited by mist and thick foliage. Soldiers on helicopters dropped boxes of food into the jungle. Hoping that it would help sustain the children. Planes flying over the jungle fired flares to help search crews on the ground at night. Rescuers used speakers that blasted a message recorded by the siblings’ grandmother, telling them to stay in one place.
Rumours also emerged about the children’s whereabouts and on May 18 the president tweeted that the children had been found. He then deleted the message. Claiming he had been misinformed by a government agency.
The group of four children were travelling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare when the plane crashed.
They are members of the Huitoto people, and officials said the oldest children in the group had some knowledge of how to survive in the rainforest.