Oldest Amazon plane crash survivor praised for ‘heroic’ effort

This picture shows a soldier standing next to the wreckage of an aircraft that crashed in the Colombian Amazon forest in the municipality of Solano, department of Caqueta, on May 19, 2023. — AFP

After surviving the plane crash which killed at least three people including her mother, the eldest child among those saved was praised for showing her bravery and “heroic role” in caring for her three younger siblings, said her grandfather.

The plane crashed on May 1 and the survivors were stranded in the dense Amazon jungle for more than a month. 

Search efforts are now underway to find Wilson, a missing rescue dog who kept them company.

The children came across Wilson — a Special Forces search dog — in the jungle who accompanied them on several occasions but went missing and was last seen on May 18.

The children had spent about three or four days with him, according to Colombian military spokesperson Pedro Arnulfo Sanchez Suarez, in which the dog seemed quite weak and frail.

The Colombian Defense Ministry released videos showing the children’s grandfather narcissi Mucutuy describing how Lesly saved her siblings.

She pulled out her siblings after seeing her mother dead. She kept her infant brother Cristin nourished by slowly feeding him milk from a bottle until it ran out, after which she resorted to giving the baby water.

They were alive on eating farina which is a coarse cassava flour used by indigenous tribes of the region, according to officials.

The family’s indigenous heritage was credited for their survival skills. Colombian President Gustavo Pedro said that “their learning from indigenous families and their learning of living in the jungle has saved them.”

The children waited near the crash site for four days expecting rescue missions to save them but they moved from the crash site while leaving backtraces where they slept until they could not walk any further.

Manuel Ronoque, the father of the two youngest Mucutuy children had been assisting in the search after which they eventually found the survivors. 

Others are still carrying on with the search in hopes of finding their missing family members.

“We have a saying that ‘we never leave an element behind,’ even less the four children, we would not leave Wilson. But we are also conscious of how difficult it is to find him in the depths of a hostile but blessed jungle,” said Suárez.

The four rescued children are being kept in a hospital in Bogota for recovery and are expected to be kept for observation for about three weeks.

This incident sparked a massive military-led search operation that continued for more than 100 special forces troops and over 70 indigenous scouts, looking for the survivors and the rescue dog. 

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