In a wonderful ending to a sad tragedy, four children were found alive in the Amazon after their plane had crashed 40 days prior. The siblings, aged 13, 9, 4, and 11 months, lost their mother in the crash and spent weeks in Colombia's Amazon jungle struggling to survive. The children, who are members of the Huitoto Indigenous tribe, are currently recovering at a military hospital and are doing well.
Now, the world is trying to piece together their story, which also saw the plane's two pilots perish. Manuel Ranoqu, the father of the two younger children, told reporters that the oldest child, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, said their mother had survived for four days after the crash. Lesly, who was used to caring for her younger siblings while her mother worked, took charge and helped the children survive.
“She gave them flour and cassava bread, any fruit in the bush, they know what they must consume,” said the children's grandmother, Fatima Valencia.
The entire nation of Colombia has been following the story closely since the Cessna 206 aircraft fell from the sky on May 1. Two weeks later, the military found the bodies of the three adults close to the wreckage, but by that time, the children had moved away from the crash site.
A massive search effort was carried out, as rescue workers scoured the rainforest for the children. Eventually, they came upon items that gave them hope—a hair tie, a makeshift shelter, a small drinking cup, and a pair of scissors. Indigenous people also joined the search party, lending their invaluable knowledge of the terrain to the search. At the same time, a message from their grandmother, recorded in Huitoto, urging them to stop moving around, was played at a high volume. The military also dropped packages of food and supplies that they hope the children would find.
#GeneralGiraldo: “La unión de esfuerzos hizo posible esta alegría para Colombia”
— Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) June 10, 2023
Eventually, they were found about three miles away from the crash site in a small forest clearing. As helicopters had difficulty landing in the dense forest, lines were dropped to hoist the children out of the jungle. From there, they were airlifted to Bogota, where they are recovering.
The Huitoto tribe, which is native to southern Colombia and northern Peru, is known for their farming and hunting abilities. Growing up in this culture most certainly gave the children an advantage in surviving for over a month in the Amazon Rainforest. Fidencio Valencia, the children's uncle, said that one of the children told him that they hid in a tree in order to protect themselves from the snakes and mosquitoes that are rampant in the jungle.
While they are understandably tired, family members report that they are drinking and starting to eat solid foods again. One even said that he wanted to get out of bed and walk around, even though his feet hurt. His uncle assured him to rest up and that they'd be back to playing soccer in no time.
For Colombia, their rescue is a true moment of joy and the country's president, Gustavo Petro, is taking this opportunity to hold the situation up as an example of teamwork between the military and the Indigenous community.
Four children ranging in ages from 1 to 13 were pulled from Colombia's Amazon after 40 days.
#ATENCIÓN 🚨| La Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia -ONIC- informa y recibe con mucha alegría el hallazgo con vida de los cuatro niños que estaban desaparecidos en la selva del Caquetá. pic.twitter.com/dcQp2To0PA
— Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia – ONIC (@ONIC_Colombia) June 10, 2023
Their plane, which was flying from Araracuara to San José del Guaviare, crashed after its engine failed.
Hay una sensación colectiva de felicidad porque aparecieron con vida los niños en la selva del Guaviare.
El @COL_EJERCITO y la Guardia Indigena conformaron brigada de búsqueda que logró lo que parecía imposible.
— Jorge Rojas Rodríguez (@jorgerojas2022) June 10, 2023
Colombia's military came together with Indigenous volunteers to find the children.
Levanten la mano los que a ésta hora ven el especial de @SenalColombia sobre el rescate de la vida entre militares e indígenas de los niñas en la selva.
— Hollman Morris (@HOLLMANMORRIS) June 12, 2023
Now, they are all safe and recovering at a hospital in Bogota.
El encuentro de saberes: indigenas y militares.
El encuentro de fuerzas por un bien común: guardia indígena y las fuerzas militares de Colombia.
El respeto a la selva.
Aquí se muestra un camino diferente para Colombia: creo que este es el verdadero camino de la Paz.
Aquí hay una… pic.twitter.com/Xl77iArFa6
— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 10, 2023