On October 13, 1972, a military plane that transported Santiago de Chile members of the Uruguayan rugby team Old Christians, along with their families, supporters and friends, crashed into the Andes mountains, 3,500 meters high.
The chartered flight – with 45 passengers and crew, including 19 team members – had departed from Montevideo, Uruguay. While the aircraft was crossing the Andes, the pilot in command at that time mistakenly believed that they had reached Curicó (Chile), even though the instrument readings indicated otherwise.
Then, it began to descend too early to reach the Pudahuel Airport and It collided with a mountain, initially severing both wings and the tail section.
The remaining part of the fuselage slid down the mountain for about 725 meters before crashing into ice and snow on a glacier.
16 people survived, who are now around 70 years old. Another 17 died in the following days due to injuries, lack of food and the harsh conditions they faced.
The accident went down in history as the Miracle of the Andes and it is, to date, one of the most shocking episodes in aviation, as the survivors ate their dead companions to stay alive, until finally two of them managed to cross the mountains on foot to Chile and ask for help.
Survivor of the Miracle of the Andes
This Friday, 45 years have passed since the tragedy. One of the rescued, Roberto Canessa, is now a cardiologist specialized in pediatric cardiology and, in 2016, shared his testimony with a BBC program.
In that year, he presented his book I had to survive: how the plane crash in the Andes inspired my vocation to save lives. Now the British chain has published his testimony again.
“There is an instinct within you that tells you that you have to eat something. So we think about the leather of the shoes or the straps. We started chewing on the leather, but we felt that it was intoxicating us, because it had a lot of chemicals in it. So we had nothing left ”, he referred to the beginning of his shocking testimony.
“It was very difficult for me to invade the privacy of my friends and cut off a part of their bodies. He felt that somehow he was violating her privacy. Eating the bodies – to live long enough to be rescued – was more difficult for some than others. Many times I think it was like a human experiment. Then it became common to do it, to share the meat among the survivors, “he said. Roberto Canessa a la BBC.
Eating human flesh to subsist
According to the journalistic file, the authorities and the relatives of the victims of Miracle of the Andes they decided to bury the remains near the crash site in a mass grave. Thirteen bodies were left intact, while 15 others were mostly skeletal.
Previously, two photographs taken by members of the Andean Relief Corps of a half-eaten human leg were printed on the front page of two Chilean newspapers, El Mercurio and La Tercera, which reported that all survivors resorted to anthropophagy.
“We survived because we were a team, we worked together, we helped each other. All we had was life And you said, ‘I’m going to keep this up and see what happens, against all odds.’ When I was in the mountains and I saw my dead friends, I knew that I could be the next and I realized how fragile the line that separates life from death was, “he said. Canessa.
“So since then I have enjoyed living more, actually,” he said.
Miracle of the Andes in documentary
In June of this year, History premiered the series Inexplicable Latinoamérica with John Leguizamo, which featured scientists, historians, witnesses and experts analyzing the most mysterious and unusual events in Latin America, along with their main protagonists. Predestined not to die he addressed the Miracle in the Andes.
The audiovisual tells how Roberto Canessa and Fernando Parrado, other survivors, crossed the immense mountains to reach Chile, fed up with the very low temperatures, the threatening avalanches, anguished by the continuous death of their companions and the slow wait for rescue.
Statistics assert that no one is capable of surviving an accident of this magnitude. However, for some chosen from that flight, that did not appear to be the case.
The group of people who survived the collision, who were mostly in their 20s, faced the fearsome Cordillera, with 30 degrees below zero at night and hunger.
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