More than two weeks after a plane crash in Colombia, four children have been found alive in the dense Colombian Amazon rainforest. “Joy for the country,” wrote Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro on Twitter. The children of the indigenous Huitoto people were found “after a tedious search by our armed forces”.
Improvised shelter made of sticks and twigs
More than a hundred soldiers with sniffer dogs and indigenous people from the area had searched for the minors. The children are eleven months and four, nine and 13 years old. Her mother and two other adults died in the plane crash. Soldiers found their bodies on Monday and Tuesday.
The Cessna disappeared from radar on May 1 while flying over the Amazon rainforest. At the time, she was near San José del Guaviare, one of the largest cities in the Colombian Amazon. The army posted photos of the wreck on Twitter. They show the wreck in the middle of the jungle, where it apparently fell vertically, snout first, to the ground.
The rescue workers assume that the children have been moving through the jungle in the southern department of Caqueta since the accident. According to the army, the search was intensified again on Wednesday morning after the helpers discovered “an improvised shelter made of sticks and twigs”. That indicated at least one survivor. A pair of scissors and a hair band were seen on the jungle floor in photos released by the armed forces. Rescue teams had found bitten fruit from the jungle at the crash site, which is why they hoped for survivors.
Wild animals and rainfall had made the search difficult
Huge trees that can grow up to 40 meters high, wild animals and heavy rains had made the search called “Operation Hope” difficult. Three helicopters were in action. The Huitoto indigenous people are known for living in harmony with the jungle and for their skills in hunting, fishing and wild fruit gathering. This may have helped the children survive more than two weeks alone.
The cause of the plane crash is still unclear. The pilot had reported engine problems before his plane disappeared from radar, according to the Colombian Civil Protection Agency. Roads are few in the region and access by river is also difficult, making airplanes an important mode of transport.
Colombia awaits in suspense the fate of four children who disappeared in the jungle
President Petro tweeted that the brothers, whereabouts unknown after a plane crash, turned up alive after 17 days. However, neither Aerocivil nor the Military Forces have yet been able to confirm the discovery of the three minors and a baby.
Colombia lives hours of anguish over the fate of four children who have disappeared in the jungle for 17 days. The plane in which they crashed on May 1 in a place of difficult access was found on Tuesday with the bodies of the pilot, the co-pilot and the mother of the minors, but with no trace of them. The whereabouts of the children — ages 11 months, 4, 9 and 13 — remain a mystery. The search has been distressing due to the adverse conditions in the Amazon region, with which it is not easy to survive. The authorities and surrounding communities combed the area. According to what President Gustavo Petro said in the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday, on Twitter, they managed to find them. He broke the news of a miracle.
However, over the hours the information began to be confusing and contradictory. Neither Aerocivil nor the Military Forces, the institutions that have been in charge of the search, confirmed it. Versions began to circulate that it was all a huge misunderstanding and the children had not been found. Someone from Family Welfare (ICBF), the institution in charge of the protection of minors, would have informed the president, who immediately shared the news on networks. The institution confirmed that the information reached the president through them.
“Information was received from the territory that ensures contact with the four boys and girls who were part of the people who were transported on the aircraft. Said report stated that they had been found alive and that they are also in good health,” says an ICBF statement. “However, the Military Forces have not yet been able to officially establish contact due to difficult weather conditions and difficult terrain,” they add. Therefore, the authorities have not been able to “corroborate the information received by the ICBF from various sources.”
The company of the crashed plane has launched its own version. He assured that they had not yet been found and that the search continued. But the most interesting thing is what he narrates in a statement and that he would speak of a feasible hypothesis of what has happened. That version maintains that the captain of a small plane that landed today in Cachiporro, the Caquetá community closest to the accident, heard at 3:30 p.m. from the neighbors that the children had been found and that they were traveling down the river. The captain radioed a colonel in charge of tracking. If this version is true, they could have been caught on the way by a thunderstorm that has prevented them from continuing their journey and they would be somewhere incommunicado waiting for it to clear up. The point is that no official authority has yet seen them or come into contact with them.
Some locals have accepted the find as good. An independent radio station associated with OPIAC (National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon) announced, almost at the same time as the president, that according to sources in the territory, the children had been found by a civilian. The organization has been active throughout the search process, and one of its members shared in networks that they were the ones who found the children and not the army. However, their official spokesmen have not confirmed the news either.
Petro, very active on social networks, did not mention anything about the matter again. The people around him maintain that the information is true and that the military forces are hours away from meeting the minors, who have survived very harsh conditions in the jungle for more than two weeks. The local media were divided between those who gave truth to the president’s information and those who were completely distrustful. It would not be the first time that the president is wrong when announcing something. At the beginning of January, he took for granted a ceasefire with the ELN that was later denied by the guerrillas. On other occasions he has shared messages from fake accounts on Twitter. This error would be of another nature.
The news that they had survived brought, for a short moment, great joy to the country. It is reminiscent of other cases such as the story of a shipwrecked man told by García Márquez for installments in a magazine, or that of Juliane Koepcke, the only survivor of a plane crash who was lost in the Peruvian jungle for 11 days, until she was found. Lesly Mucutuy (13 years old), Soleiny Mucutuy (9 years old), Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy (4 years old) and Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy (11 months old) would have accomplished a similar feat.
The children live in Araracuara and belong to the Huitoto community. According to the presidential version, it was the inhabitants of Cachiporro, in the department of Vaupés, who found them. The authorities had tried with all their might. Helicopters with speakers from which the grandmother’s voice came out flew over the area. At the scene of the accident, the military found a bottle on some bushes, some scissors and a bitten apple, indications that some had survived the accident. Some dogs searched the entire perimeter.
The plane in which they were traveling with the three adults covered the route between Araracuara and San José del Guaviare. At the controls, the pilot Hernando Murcia Morales; as co-pilot, the indigenous leader Hermán Mendoza Hernández; and as a passenger Mucutuy Valencia, the children’s mother. Just after 7:30 a.m. on May 1, the pilot reported an engine failure. That same plane had had an accident in Los Llanos Orientales on July 12, 2021, according to official information. This time, its last recorded location was approximately 175 km from the destination, on the Apaporis River, in the middle of the Amazon jungle.
Since then their whereabouts have been unknown, until this Tuesday, more than two weeks later, when the authorities found the remains of the aircraft and the bodies of the three adults, whose bodies could not be recovered due to bad weather.
The children’s father, Manuel Ranoque, has not lost hope in these 17 days. “I have already faced this many times. I had a sister lost for almost a month and I struggled to find her, because she is a mute, special sister, and in the same way she returned. So I think that at this time the effort is not going to be wasted, ”he said in Noticias Caracol. This information explains that Ranoque fled from Araracuara, Caquetá, due to threats from FARC dissidents. From his exile he sent money to get his wife and four children out of there and take them to Bogotá. It is not yet confirmed whether or not he will be able to meet them again soon.