Forty days – that’s how long four siblings wandered in the jungle after surviving a plane crash. Just last week, the children – ages 13, 9, 5, and 1 – were finally found. There are many people to thank for getting them to safety, but those getting the most praise are the children themselves. This is especially true for the eldest sibling, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy.
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Their fight for survival began with a plane crash. The four of them were onboard a small aircraft with their mom, Magdalena Mucutuy. The family had to flee their home in Araracuara after receiving threats from a rebel group. Their dad had already left, and it was their hope to reunite.
But when the plane experienced engine failure, it took a nose dive straight into a dense jungle in Columbia. The two other adults on board, pilot Hernando Murcia Morales and Yarupari indigenous leader Herman Mendoza HernÃ¡ndez, did not survive.
Just yesterday, we learned that the children’s mom managed to stay alive for four days after the crash, encouraging them to “get out,” an instruction they bravely carried out.
In order to survive, the children, who are members of the Huitoto indigenous group, were able to use their knowledge of identifying edible fruit and seeds to ensure they stayed fed. They even managed to ration a bag of cassava flour they found in the plane, sustaining them for weeks.
They tried staying at the site of the crash for a while, but when it seemed like help wasn’t coming, they began to wander. In doing so, they began to leave a trail, aiding the rescuers determined to save these resilient children. Their ingenious trail included half-eaten fruit, footprints, and a baby bottle.
¡Una alegrÃa para todo el paÃs! Aparecieron con vida los 4 niÃ±os que estaban perdidos hace 40 dÃas en la selva colombiana. pic.twitter.com/cvADdLbCpm– Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 9, 2023
“They had made a small tent from a tarpaulin and placed a towel on the ground,” Henry Guerrero, a man who was part of the team that found that children said. “They always stayed near the river and she [Lesly] carried a small soda bottle which she used to [fill with and] carry water.”
The rescue mission for the children, referred to as “Operation Hope,” was military led and included over a hundred Columbian special forces troops, along with over 70 indigenous scouts. From helicopters, they played a recording of their grandmother where she urged them to stay in one place to make it easier for them to be found.
Thankfully, not only did they hear their grandmother’s plea, but they listened as well.
Esperanza. pic.twitter.com/XH77zuVX6R– Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) June 10, 2023
Soon, a group of indigenous volunteers found them, and although they appeared malnourished, they were all alive.
“The eldest daughter, Lesly, with the little one in her arms, ran towards me,” said NicolÃ¡s OrdÃ³Ã±ez Gomes, one of the rescuers. “Lesly said: ‘I’m hungry.'”
“When we found them, it was really a great happiness,” Henry said.
Rescued just last week, the children are now recovering in a military hospital.
#GeneralGiraldo: “La uniÃ³n de esfuerzos hizo posible esta alegrÃa para Colombia”– Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) June 10, 2023
Gloria a los soldados de las @FuerzasMilCol, a las comunidades indÃgenas e instituciones que hicieron parte de la #OperaciÃ³nEsperanza” pic.twitter.com/LO3BPldLgD
Their grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, says that they are “very weakened, they have small wounds and bruises, they have illnesses that they contracted in the jungle, but overall they’re well, they’re in good hands.”
In fact, just today it was reported that the children are now playing with each other, drawing, and and reading. A few of their drawings depict a rescue dog named Wilson who, although currently missing, is being searched for.
“The most important thing now is what the doctors say, they have been lost for 40 days, their health condition must have been stressed,” Columbian President Gustavo Petro said. “We need to check their mental state too.”
Mientras nuestro Comandante #GeneralGiraldo, visitaba y recibÃa reporte del avance de salud de los pequeÃ±os que se recuperan en el @HOMILCOL, y les entregaba algunos detalles; Lesly y Soleiny le entregaron unos dibujos hechos por ellas para Ã©l amigo de Wilson. (1) pic.twitter.com/fsU0ZBb2os– Fuerzas Militares de Colombia (@FuerzasMilCol) June 12, 2023
President Petro added that these children are examples of “total survival that will be remembered in history.”
Healing, both physically and mentally, from such a traumatic event will no doubt take time. We wish the Mucutuy children and their loved ones well as they navigate this journey forward together.
Watch footage of when the kids were found below, and share this story to wish them well in their recovery.
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