The story that inspired the movie "LIVE" and almost a dozen books.
A few days ago I come with this story spinning in my head, wanting to share it with you meticulously well.
Putting my whole mind at the service of transmitting quality content in this blog that I manage to conquer, I wanted to offer you a story, information, news, something to offer from my region that could be enjoyed anywhere in the world through Sacorum.
I decided to leave my comfort zone, football and culture trips, to write about this story that unites sport with tragedy and extreme survival. While I know of this event from a very young age, I report again in detail to avoid waste.
The story of a team of young rugby players destined to face the biggest game of their lives. A challenge of as much physical demand as psychological and intellectual.
What looked like a student flight from a group of friends who played rugby, turned into a disaster on that flight 571. The Uruguayan Air Force plane was headed from that same country to Chile with the team of alumni of the Stella Maris School , in which some parents also traveled, to face the Old Boys of Santiago de Chile.
After an error of the crew, the plane crashed into a cliff in the Cordillera de Los Andes, on the Argentine side, in the province of Mendoza, at 3500 m.s.n.m. Only 16 survived of the 45 people who completed the plane.
THE ACCIDENT AND THE TRAGEDY
On October 12, 1972, a Fairchild Hiller 227 from the Uruguayan Air Force departed from the Carrasco airport, with 45 people on board bound for Chile to play a rugby friendly match for the youth teams.
During the flight, the crew was forced to land at the Mendoza airport, where they spent the night, due to bad weather that complicated the conditions of the plane.
On October 13, in the hurry of reaching the destination to play the match, and seeing that the climate front did not stop, they decided to wait until the afternoon to resume the trip and reach the long-awaited meeting.
The crew in charge of Colonel Julio Cesar Ferradas as pilot, and Lieutenant Dante Lagurara in command control. They choose to follow the route that goes through the Planchón between the cities of Malargüe (Argentina) and Curicó (Chile)
Everything was fine until then. Lagurara estimated that they would reach Paso del Planchón at around 3:00 p.m., where it passes from Argentine air control to Chile. To all this the airplane already had ascended 6,000 msnm.
However, the direction and direction of the winds changed and caused a decrease in the Fairchild's speed by 15% of the cruise speed from 210 to 180 knots. They were on a sea of clouds.
It is believed that this variable was not taken into account and a navigation error was made. which produced a spatial disorientation of the crew. The plane was considerably farther north and east than they thought. Added to this, the clouds did not allow them to see and estimated the crossing according to the usual flight time for this crossing. By not taking into account the strong winds that slowed the plane, the decline was early.
Later, Lagurara informed the Santiago control station that they would arrive in 11 minutes to Curicó, and that at that moment they were flying over the Paso del Planchón, when in fact they were on the mountain range at the height of San Fernando where there are mountain peaks of greater height.
A few minutes later, they communicated again to request descent permission, since they could see the airport of Padahuel. Given by fact, the control tower allowed the descent until the 3,500 msnm. The plane was heading towards a box that formed the cliffs of the Andes.
With a low ceiling of clouds, the Fairchild, descends 1000 m, moment in which it is introduced inside a cloud and begins to shake. The young passengers began to make jokes about the ups and downs of the plane as if it were a roller coaster, even some played to which the ship fell.
The consecutive blows of air caused that the airplane descended even more, in that moment, all the crew left the jokes and were shocked when seeing by the windows the slopes of the mountain to meters of distance.
Suddenly, the fog opened up, letting the cabin crew see the huge peaks ahead, which would be the chronicle of an announced collision.
The aircraft then faced a 4,400 m summit. Commander Lagurara, making a huge physical effort, pulling the controls to take height, can raise his nose above the peak passing a few meters. However, unfortunately of life, this type of aircraft flew in normal mode, with the nose higher than the tail, even in a horizontal direction. What complicated the maneuver causing a strong blow to the tail with the edge of the summit.
Immediately afterwards, the plane hit the cliff again, this time causing the loss of the right wing, which then crashed against the tail at the height of window n ° 8, of 10 in total.
The fuselage that opened causing the detachment to the vacuum of the last 2 rows. At that time 5 people died, all of them were still tied to the seats by the seat belt.
Seconds eternal began to run for the crew that shouted and prayed loudly. In a third crash, the aircraft loses the left wing, leaving only the fuselage in flight as a projectile. Even with speed, this hit against the snowy slope, sliding on steep terrain for more than 1 km to stop on a snow bank. There, 2 more passengers, still tied to their seats, were fired by the upper gap.
The plane was on a slope that faces east, 3,500 meters above sea level, on the glacier of Las Lágrimas. The last blow against the snow was fatal for the cabin crew. Lagurara with his head out of the window and with his chest and body compressed against the instrument panel.
The remaining passengers inside the fuselage, due to inertia, struck strongly against the front of this. Some seats left their bases trapping many by the legs. There were people who died compressed between the seats, others died by TCE (traumatismo cranial encephalic). For the rest the blow was muffled, incredibly certain passengers were unharmed with minor injuries.
The captain of the team immediately organized the unharmed to help free those who remained trapped. One of the survivors managed to get out of the fuselage and saw Lagurara agonize, who told him his last words "write down, write down, we are in Curicó, write down ...". Next, Lagurara asked the boy to take the revolver that was in the cabin and to shoot him, but that did not happen.
72 DAYS SURVIVING IN THE SNOW
From 14:46 hours that the plane had taken off from Mendoza, in just 1 hour and something else, the lives of these people would change from the ecstasy of a trip of friends to the hardest agony.
Until then, of the 45 people, 13 died in the accident, another 4 died the next day and a few days later, due to his injuries, Susana Corrado, mother of the player Nando Corrado, died.
There were only 27 passengers left alive. Among them the team captain who organized his friends with a leadership as if it were a match more. They withstood temperatures of up to -42 ° C in the frozen mountains.
The rescue patrols began to look for them according to the latest indications that the crew members had given, without success, after 8 or 10 days of searching they stopped the activity.
The survivors, led by the captain, despite the conditions and the degree of weakness, managed to manufacture relief equipment such as stills, gloves and boots with the stuffing and upholstery of the seats to avoid sinking in the snow, and sunglasses with the plane's polarized glass to withstand the reflection of the snow.
They slept with 2 pants, 3 or 4 sweaters, 3 pairs of stockings and even covered their heads with shirts to keep their breath. They massaged each other to avoid hypothermia and slept all in body contact within what was left of the fuselage. With the last of a battery-operated radio, they managed to hear that they had stopped searching, the hopes were getting less and less.
However, things were going to get worse. On the night of October 29 (16 days of survival) at 23:00 while they were sleeping inside the fuselage, an avalanche of snow slipped and buried the remains of the Fairchild, burying those who were sleeping in the back of the plane. That night eight more people died, suffocated under the snow, including team captain Marcelo Pérez and the last surviving woman, Liliana Navarro. Incredibly, as a work of destiny, this fact allowed the rest of the survivors not to die later.
With this new panorama, the space inside the plane was reduced and limited in oxygen, luckily, they realized this early, when seeing that the flame of a lighter was extinguished repeatedly. Nando Parrado, managed to make a hole in the roof with a stick and I dig the snow that covered them until they found the oxygen they needed.
The great weather that crossed by the southern storms, forced him to remain inside the fuselage. However, outside of the climatic hazard, they would face a challenge as tough as few in their life have gone.
The storm did not stop and the food for as much as they administered it as best as possible, was about to end, which forced them to do the unthinkable, eat the bodies of their deceased companions in the avalanche. They overcame the religious and social stigmas that had been instilled in them as children, but this fact saved their lives. Strategically, they placed the bodies in different places in case there was another avalanche that covered them.
It was already November, when then, 2 more players die, because of the gangrene caused in their wounds. On November 11, the 29th and final victim would die for the same cause.
The group was able to survive for 72 days and not die thanks to the group decision to feed on human flesh (anthropophagy). Although it was an easy decision to make, they soon realized that it was the only way to survive. They put as a rule not to use any close family member or any deceased female.
The boys had a radio without batteries, but one of them remembered that in the queue that had fallen in the first shock were the batteries. With the illusion of being able to communicate with the outside, they once again made an effort against the snowstorm and managed to reach the place, the passengers who died due to the detachment of the tail, were still tied to their seats.
The mission became more difficult to see that the batteries weighed about 30 kg each, so they decided to return to the fuselage and take the radio to the batteries. However, all was in vain, the team had short-circuited for unknown reasons and the damage was irreparable. Once again, life gave them a slap in the face of their hopes of overcoming, what looked like an agonizing announced death.
Luckily in some bags they found chocolates and liquors, and the cold was an ally in terms of being able to keep the meat out of infections, with this they could ration the food very well.
It was already December and the summer was approaching, the sunny days left the fuselage uncovered again and that was when Nando porra, Roberto Canessa and Antonio Vizintín decided to walk in search of someone or something to save them, it was their only chance of life .
They believed that they were in Chilean territory due to the message of the crewman Lagurara, which made them walk towards the west erroneously, towards the highest cliffs, without preparation, neither knowledge nor forces. If they had walked to the Argentine side everything would have been much easier. At 21 km was the hotel Termas del Sosneado, where they could have found civilization.
On the third day of walking, Antonio slips and a wound is produced which his friends decided to return to the fuselage, but they asked him to leave his ration of meat since the trip could be longer than they imagined.
On the tenth day of having left the fuselage, maybe for physical reasons that the sport gave them, these boys had already walked 60 km between mountains with ice and thaw. By that time they were already in the San Fernando's zone and managed to see a river product of the thaw, in those days, the summer sun caused the meat to begin to decompose, there was not much time left. The river had become plentiful, so they could not cross it and started walking along the shore.
As if it were an extraterrestrial, the next day, they see on the other side a muleteer who watches them. Nando tries to shout at him but the river's noise does not allow him to listen to him. Then the muleteer, with intelligence, took a piece of paper, a pencil and a stone and threw them at him.
Nando writes a message and taking out the last forces, throws the stone with the message to the other side of the river. The message said:
"I come from an airplane that fell in the mountains, I'm Uruguayan, we've been walking for 10 days, I've got a friend hurt up, there are 14 injured people on the plane, we have to get out of here fast and we do not know how. We're weak, when are they going to pick us up, please, we can not even walk, where are we?"
The Chilean arriero, called Sergio Hilario Catalán Martínez, a 44 year old man. Immediately, he understands the message, throws them some bread and cheese and runs to the nearest police station, where the patrol would later help them.
The news went viral, as we say now, but in radial terms. All Uruguay learned about the deed of these young people. That December 22, the Chilean pilots who had made 66 unsuccessful searches, found out that the Uruguayan aircraft were still alive after 2 months.
Already safe, the rescuers questioned Parrado and Canessa and one of the pilots asks Parrado to serve as a guide to get to the scene of the incident. 2 helicopters were used for the rescue. In that, they realized that the white color of the fuselage would never allow them to visualize them.
Due to the slope where the other survivors were, the pilots understood that the rescue would not be easy, to all this, the 14 survivors jumped and shouted of joy, the weakness had become adrenaline.
Beyond the famished state of the bodies of the young people, the transport load limit of the helicopters had been exceeded, for this reason, some of them had to be lowered, even using brute force. Nobody wanted to spend a minute more in that place.
Finally, that day only 7 of the survivors were rescued, the rest of them had to spend one more night in the fuselage, but this time they did it accompanied by the rescue team. The next day, the last survivors were rescued and transferred to Santiago de Chile to be treated at the hospital.
One of the members of the SAR that spent that last night among the wreckage, would tell later:
"The plane was split and without wings, the pilot was still at his post, but his head had disappeared and there was only the stump of the column sticking out the window, there were scenes of obvious anthropophagy, since around and due to the thaw, he left glimpse human remains".
The rescuers counted in total 11 dismembered bodies, and the others were buried in snow as a reserve. The survivors had a strange yellow-pink color on their faces and their skin stuck to their bones.
The survivors, at first did not want to recognize that they had practiced cannibalism. They said that the provisions of the plane had reached them by lot. However, a Chilean newspaper published photos of the bodies cut up and the young people were forced to give a public press conference in which they apologized and thanked the relatives of the deceased, who supported them at all times.
Today there is a museum with the belongings saved from the plane, in addition, trekking excursions are made to the place of the wreck where a cross lies in homage to the deceased and in it the travelers hang messages and flags.
Nando Parra has become recognized worldwide for his dissertations on survival psychology and he, along with the other survivors, continued playing rugby after the tragedy.
* In 2007, the arriero Sergio Catalán was disabled due to hip osteoarthritis. Thanks to Chilean television, the news reached the Uruguayans who came to his aid as a token of gratitude.
* Roberto Canessa is nowadays a renowned cardiologist. He has never stopped expressing his thanks for the rescue.
* In October 2012, the 40th anniversary of this event was commemorated. 7 of the survivors traveled to Chile, where they participated in several reminder events.* In June 2015, Javier Methol was the first of the sixteen to die, at 79 years of age; he was older than most of the survivors
Well friends, I know it has been long, but believe me, this story moves me since I was a child. I hope I could have transmitted it in the best way and that they have enjoyed it as much as I have.
It's amazing how life can, in less than an hour, put you to play the game of your life.
Thanks for reading!