The 4 children who were missing after Colombian plane crash survived on flour, rain forest fruits

Manuel Ranoque, the father of two of the youngest Indigenous children who survived an Amazon plane crash that killed three adults, and then braved the jungle for 40 days before being found alive, speaks to the media from the entrance of the military hospital where the children are receiving medical attention, in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 11, 2023.
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All four children who went missing after a plane crashed in Colombia were found alive in the jungle after 40 days. They survived by eating cassava flour and fruits from the rainforest.

All three of the adults onboard the plane were killed in the crash, but the situation puzzled search and rescue as they tried to find the children in the dense jungle. The children are members of the Huitoto people and are only 13, 9, 4 and 11 months old.

Colombia President Gustavo Petro met the children in the hospital in Bogota after their rescue, and the children were being treated and getting rehydrated.

“But in general, the condition of the children is acceptable,” Defense Minister Iván Velásquez told The Associated Press.

“As the grandfather to my grandchildren who disappeared in the jungles of the Yari, at this moment I am very happy,” Narcizo Mucutuy, the grandfather of the children, told Reuters.

When the children were found “near the border between Colombia’s Caqueta and Guaviare provinces,” they were weak and malnourished but conscious and alive, per Reuters.

“They were alone. They themselves achieved an example of total survival. It will remain in history, so those children are today the children of peace and the children of Colombia,”  Petro told local media, per The Washington Post.

On May 31, searchers discovered small footprints about two miles away from where a plane crashed, renewing hope the children were still alive and energizing search efforts, The Associated Press reported.

Who was searching for the missing Colombian children?

There were “more than 100 members of Colombia’s special forces and more than 70 indigenous people from the area” who participated in a search for the missing children, with some of the soldiers having “walked nearly 1,000 miles” during their search, according to AP.

Gen. Pedro Sánchez, who led the search, said that rescue teams were within 164 feet on “a couple occasions but had missed them,” The Guardian reported.

“The children were already very weak,” Sánchez told The Guardian. “Their strength was only enough to breathe or reach a small fruit to feed themselves or drink a drop of water in the jungle.”

The search was treacherous, with searchers dealing with “up to 16 hours a day of rain,” wild animals, mosquitoes and poisonous snakes, CBS News reported. They also risked “getting lost in the dense jungle,” which made the search more time intensive.

How did officials know the children might have survived the crash?

According to CBS News, on May 1, the plane crashed, and two weeks later, “the remains of the aircraft were found along with the bodies of the pilot and two other adults traveling aboard.” The children were not found at the site, and officials declared there were clear signs that the children survived the impact.

Plane crashes occur somewhat often over the Amazon, CNN reported, with 8.74% of accidents in all of Colombia taking place in the region, despite only 2% of the country’s population living there.

Indigenous advocates released a statement that accused “Bogota of failing to enforce safety checks and protocols for planes in the region,” per CNN.