Colombia plane crash: Officials said four kids were found alive in Amazon. Then they vanished

Seventeen days after a small aircraft crashed in the Colombian Amazon rainforest, the country is holding its breath over confusing reports that four children have survived the ordeal.

The siblings – 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, nine-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, four-year-old Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy and 11-month-old Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy – were travelling in a Cessna 206 plane when it crashed on 1 May near the Guaviare province.

Their mother Magdalena Mucutuy, the plane’s pilot, and another passenger died in the accident but the minors were nowhere to be found, the Colombian Air Force said in a statement.

Efforts to find the children escalated in recent days after rescue crews found evidence of their survival in the vast Amazon jungle, including hair ties, children’s scissors and a baby bottle.

On Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced that the minors had been located and were in good health. But hours later, he walked back that assertion, clarifying that the Air Force and indigenous communities had established contact with the children, but their location remains unknown.

With a massive search underway and as the country hopes for good news, this is everything we know about the crash and the children’s miracle survival:

A trip meant to reunite a family

Mucutuy was travelling with her children to Bogotá to meet her husband Manuel Ranoque and start a new life together.

According to El Tiempo, Mr Ranoque, who is related to a local political leader, previously lived in the indigenous reserve of Puerto Sábalo with his family.

He had to flee the community on foot after receiving threats from crime groups operating in the area. Mr Ranoque completed his odyssey through the jungle and eventually arrived in Bogotá.

He reportedly found a job and saved money for a month and a half to afford his family’s transport from their remote community to the Colombian capital.

But dreams to reunite were shattered when the small aircraft Mr Ranoque’s wife and children were travelling in crashed. The plane had been on a route between Araracuara in Amazonas province and San Jose del Guaviare for the first leg of the trip when it disappeared in the early hours of 1 May.

(Aeronautica Civil de Colombia )

The aircraft was reported missing the same day but was not found until 15 May, due to adverse weather conditions that delayed search operations.

Mucutuy’s mother Fátima told El Tiempo she was combing parts of the jungle herself with other members of indigenous communities.

“I’m waiting for them to return [my daughter’s] body. She had been living in the jungle for so long. I’m waiting for her,” Fátima said. “God is good and I know the children will be found alive.”

Magdalena mucutuy died in the crash. Her four children are believed to have survived

(OPIAC Amazonia/Twitter)

Evidence of survival

Civil aviation authorities, who coordinated the rescue operations, believe the children escaped the plane after the crash and set off into the rainforest to find help.

Efforts to find them were stepped up after rescue teams, including search dogs, found discarded fruit the children ate to survive and improvised shelters made with jungle vegetation. Hair ties, children’s scissors and a nursing bottle were also found.

Authorities said rescue efforts involved three helicopters, including one which blasted out a recorded message from the children’s grandmother in the Huitoto language telling them to stop moving through the jungle.

Efforts to find them were stepped up after rescue teams, including search dogs, found discarded fruit the children ate to survive and improvised shelters made with jungle vegetation.

(Aeronáutica Civil de Colombia)

Hair ties, children’s scissors and a nursing bottle were also found

(Aeronáutica Civil de Colombia)

Confusion over children’s whereabouts

On Wednesday, Mr Petro claimed in a statement on Twitter that the children had been found after a search by more than 100 members of the military, firefighters and civil aviation authority officials in the dense jungle of Colombia’s Caqueta province.

“After arduous searching by our military, we have found alive the four children who went missing after a plane crash in Guaviare. A joy for the country,” he said.

Mr Petro deleted his previous tweet, issuing an apology on Thursday: “I have decided to delete the tweet because the information provided by [the government’s child welfare agency, ICBF] could not be confirmed. I apologise for the confusion.

“The Military Forces and the indigenous communities will continue in their tireless search to give the country the news it is waiting for. At this time there is no other priority other than moving forward with the search until you find them. Children’s lives are the most important thing.”

Government officials ‘very confident’ children will soon be found

The ICFB has said it received information “from the field” that the children had been found in good health. However, defence ministry sources told local media they have no confirmation they have been found.

“Information was received from the area assuring contact was made with the four children who were part of the group transported on the aircraft. This report stated that they had been found alive and in good health,” said a statement from the ICBF. “However, the military forces have not yet been able to establish official contact due to adverse weather conditions and difficult terrain,” the statement added. Authorities have not been able to “corroborate the information received by the ICBF from various sources.”

The Colombian Air Force has escalated searche efforrs

(Fuerza Aerea Colombiana )

ICBF director Astrid Cáceres told Caracol Radio on Thursday that the children are safe but officials lost communication via satellite with them. However, Ms Cáceres said they had sent teams to three key areas where the children are believed to be, and she is “very confident” they will soon be found.

According to Noticias Caracol correspondent Sneyder Rico, indigenous communities in the area have said that the children are travelling in a speedboat but have no means of communication. They’re reportedly expected to arrive in the rural area of Cachiporro.

2023-05-19 14:08:08