40 days in Amazon rainforest: 4 kids’ incredible survival tale after plane crash
Four children, including an infant, who survived a plane crash and spent the next 40 days in the Columbian Amazon rainforest, were finally rescued on Friday (June 9), Colombian authorities said.
The children were alone when searchers found them. While it wasn’t immediately clear how the children, siblings aged 13, 9, and 4 years, and 11 months, managed to survive on their own for so many days in the Amazon forest, they are now receiving medical attention, Columbian President Gustavo Petro told reporters upon his return to Bogota from Cuba.
Petro, who signed a cease-fire agreement with representatives of the National Liberation Army rebel group in Cuba, said the children are an “example of survival” and predicted their “saga will remain in history”.
The plane crash
The four Indigenous children were on board a Cessna single-engine propeller plane that crashed early on May 1 due to an engine failure. There were two adults, including the children’s mother, on the plane apart from the pilot. The children had been travelling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare, a small city on the edge of the rainforest.
The small aircraft fell off the radar a short time after reporting the snag and a frantic search for survivors began. Two weeks after the 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 children were nowhere to be found.
Sensing that they could be alive, the Colombian army stepped up the hunt for the children and flew 150 soldiers with dogs into the area to track group of four siblings. Dozens of volunteers from Indigenous tribes also helped with the search.
Lost and found
On Friday, the Columbian military tweeted pictures showing a group of soldiers and volunteers posing with the children, who were wrapped in thermal blankets. One of the soldiers held a bottle to the infant’s lips.
The Columbian Air Force later shared a video on Twitter showing soldiers using a line to load the children onto a helicopter that then flew off in the dark. The tweet said the aircraft was headed to the town of San Jose del Guaviare, but gave no further details.
— Fuerza Aeroespacial Colombiana (@FuerzaAereaCol) June 10, 2023
“The union of our efforts made this possible,” Colombia’s military command wrote on its Twitter account.
Boxes of food
During the search, in an area where visibility is greatly limited by mist and thick foliage, soldiers dropped boxes of food into the jungle from helicopters, hoping that it would help sustain the children.
Planes flying over the jungle fired flares to help search crews on the ground at night, and rescuers used megaphones that blasted a message recorded by the sibling’s grandmother, telling them to stay in one place.
Rumours also emerged about the children’s whereabouts. On May 18, President Petro tweeted that the children had been found. He then deleted the message, claiming a government agency had misinformed him.
On Friday, after confirming the children had been rescued, the president said that for a while he had believed the children were rescued by one of the nomadic tribes that still roam the remote swath of the jungle where the plane fell and have little contact with authorities.
But Petro added that the children were first found by one of the rescue dogs that soldiers took into the jungle.
Children of the jungle
Officials did not say how far the children were from the crash site when they were found. But the teams had been searching within a 4.5-kilometre (nearly 3-mile) radius from the site where the small plane nosedived into the forest floor.
As the search progressed, soldiers found small clues in the jungle that led them to believe the children were still living, including a pair of footprints, a baby bottle, diapers, and pieces of fruit that looked like it had been bitten by humans.
The children 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.
The jungle saved them, Petro said. “They are children of the jungle, and now they are also children of Colombia,” he added.
(With agency inputs)