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Survivors of Plane Crash - A Miracle at Andes

Updated on December 24, 2012

Andes Flight Crash

Flight Crash Memorial at Andes
Flight Crash Memorial at Andes

A Plane Crash

On 22nd December 1972, sixteen survivors were rescued from the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 disaster which happened over two months ago on October 13 1972, much to the surprise and delight to the public and media. The incident has been labeled a miracle since the crash site occurred at a harsh climate and without much food, water or heat, it was thought that if there were to be any survivors, they would have succumbed to the extreme cold weather and injuries sustained during the crash. Over the years, the crash on December 22 has gained much famed and has been publicized in books and movies.

The ill-fated flight took place on October 13, 1972, when a chartered flight that was carrying forty five rugby players took off from Montevideo, Uruguay towards Santiago, Chile for a rugby match. Strong headwinds, torrid weather, with clouds covering and affecting much visibility, coupled with a fatal pilot error plunged the plane into a mountain peak, crashing into another peak, spiraling down a mountain slope and eventually screeching to a halt in a snow bank. The damage caused by the crash was monumental. Of the forty five passengers and crew on board the plane, seventeen died within a day of the crash, some due to injuries, most succumbed during the crash itself.

An Amazing Story of Survival

While search parties were set up and did plenty of search and rescue missions to find the missing aircraft, the search was called off after eight days when the search turned out to be unfruitful, partly due to the aircraft being white, blending it into the snow and the horrid weather causing problems to the search parties. On the eighth day, another one of the survivors died from injuries, leaving the count to a mere twenty seven. Resorting to cannibalism when they found out they were lacking food, eight more survivors died when an avalanche occurred on Day Sixteen of the crash, causing the plane to be completely buried in the snow. This led to the survivors believing their only means of survival would be to seek help by themselves.

Flight 571 crash site in Google Earth

After many days of trekking, Parrado and Canessa finally found help in the form of a Chilean Huaso, a skilled horseman and countryman, by the name of Sergio Catalan. Catalan quickly seeked help from other Huasos and reported the survivors to the police and army, who quickly dispatched a couple of helicopters for the rescue. Due to the harsh weather conditions, rescue efforts took two days, with helicopters only being able to rescue half of the survivors on the first day. In the early morning of December 23, all sixteen remaining survivors were rescued, capping off a true miracle of the Andes.

The aftermath of the rescue brought out a barrage of media sensation and the survivors were thrust into the limelight, especially the efforts of Parrado and Canessa, who trekked for days despite suffering from altitude sickness, frostbite, malnutrition and dehydration. While their survival have been largely publicized, many still believe the rescue of Flight 571 on December 22 was indeed a true miracle for the ages.


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      Genger 5 years ago

      Such a miracle.. Great strength of the men were truly amazing!!

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      ladyvamperi 7 years ago from texas

      thankyou for sharing and being a sole survivor of a planecrash myself it really hits home

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      Pinnock 7 years ago

      Great human beings, one should always listen to nature and act accordingly

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      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for a very interesting hub, thank you for sharing it. creativeone59