Special Sub-Topic: Forty-Five Crashed, Sixteen Survived
|On October 13, 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, a twin turboprop Fairchild FH-227D, crashed into the Andes. What was the name of the mountain that this plane crashed into?|
It had no name. Due to heavy headwinds, cloud cover and pilot error, Flight 571 was given clearance to descend for arrival to Santiago, Chile. Initially this flight departed from Carrasco International Airport on October 12 and was to arrive in Santiago, Chile, however, inclement weather forced the plane to stop in Mendoza for an overnight stay. The pilots had to fly the plane parallel to the Andes the next day. They then had to turn west toward the mountains and then fly through Planchon, which was a low pass. Afterward they were to cross the mountains and exit the mountains south of Curico, where they would turn northward and fly to Santiago. The pass of Planchon was covered in clouds and the headwind had slowed the plane. The pilots were relying on time needed to cross through this pass and had not taken into account how much the plane was slowed down by the headwinds. The pilots radioed for clearance to descend into Santiago, but the descent was much too soon, for they had not yet passed through the mountains. The ultimate crash occurred in a very controlled flight right into the side of an unnamed mountain. The mountain was later named Cerro Seler, also known as Glaciar de las Lagrimas which translates to mean Glacier of Tears.
Cerro Sosneado and Volcan Tinguiririca are the mountains which flanked Cerro Seler.
|The fated plane carried 45 people, including many from Stella Maris College, Montevideo, Uruguay. These men were part of a sports team. Do you recall the sport which these men played?
Rugby. The Stella Maris College's "Old Christians" rugby union team was aboard the disastrous flight. Most of the passengers were part of the rugby team. Some family members and some friends were on this plane as well. Out of these 45 passengers and crew, twelve died in the crash or very soon after the crash. Five died by the time morning came the next day. On the eighth day, one more perished. Twenty-seven survivors remained after eight days, unequipped for such inclement weather and conditions. They were without warm footwear and clothing. Temperatures were below -30 Fahrenheit. Many had injuries and broken bones. Two first year medical students, who were on board, managed to devise splints and braces, from salvaged aircraft parts, for those who needed them.
|A search for the missing plane, which crashed in the Andes, lasted for eight days. The survivors of this crash had found a small transistor radio and heard the devastating news that the search had been called off. Who was the survivor who rose above the despair and managed to encourage the others not to give up?|
Gustavo Nicolich. On their eleventh day on the mountain, the survivors heard the news that the search for them had been called off. The men sobbed and prayed. Gustavo Nicolich, seeing the mournful faces of his friends, announced that the search was called off but it was good news. He said that this meant that they were going to get out of their situation on their own. His courage and approach in handling this devastating news played a large role in preventing the group from giving up entirely.
|When the airplane crashed, which part of the plane remained intact?|
The fuselage. When the pilot and co-pilot realized they were going to crash they pulled up on the controls. The plane's tail section hit first and broke away taking some of the passengers with it, to their deaths. The wings broke away as the fuselage sped across the snow on its belly. Plunging head first into a wall of snow, the pilot's cabin became engulfed in snow as the plane came to a stop. The pilots did not survive the impact. The fuselage, though badly damaged, remained in tact and the men used what they could find to block the exposed missing tail section to protect themselves from the below freezing temperatures. As the impact took place, the seats surged forward crushing passengers between them, breaking legs and killing some with the force of the congesting seats.
|On the morning of October 29, 1972 something happened that took the lives of eight of the initial survivors. What killed these eight men?|
Buried by an avalanche. The plane's body became the resting place for the surviving men of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. On the morning of October 29, 1972 a horrifying avalanche struck the group of men as they slept in the fuselage of the airplane. The plane was buried under several feet of snow which forced the men to remain in a very confined space - trapped. Nando Parrado eventually was able to poke a hole through the roof of the fuselage and this brought about some ventilation which saved the men or they all could have perished through suffocation. With renewed hope, they dug their way out. Eight of the young men did not survive when they were buried under the snow.
|Their rations were meager and dwindling. Starving to death was now a reality. What did these people do that sustained them and kept them alive?|
Ate the flesh of the dead. When their meager rations of snacks, chocolate bars and wine ran out, the group had to make a collective decision on how to survive. It was finally agreed that they would have to eat the flesh from the bodies of the dead. This was a difficult decision to make because these were friends and family, but hunger eventually won. There were no animals on the mountain, there was no vegetation and the snow was extremely deep with many feet of snow above what might be edible underneath. They could not eat clothing, leather, aluminum, plastic or rock, something that had crossed their minds. Some of the men were against this decision to resort to cannibalism, but after a few days they also ate the flesh from the dead. The need to survive, the desire to live and the hunger became the driving force behind this decision.
|Two of the survivors from Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, made a twelve day trek across the mountains and found a Chilean huaso who was able to arrange to bring them to safety. They were then able to send help for the remaining survivors who were still at the crash site. What is a huaso?
Horseman. The Chilean huaso is a very skilled horseman or cowboy. The huasos are a very vital part of Chilean folkloric culture. They take part in many parades, fiestas, holidays and other important Chilean events. They are very proud and confident masters of the rodeo in Chile. They have very well-trained horses and they practice their skills, with their horses on a daily basis.
Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa made a heroic twelve day trek through the terrain of the Andes Mountains. They survived treacherous weather and cold. After several days they came across a Chilean huaso, named Sergio Catalan, who was across the Rio Azufre from them. There was no way to cross the river. When he returned the next day, this skilled horseman was able to have these men brought to safety.
Having ridden westward for several hours, Sergio Catalan was then able to get the urgently needed help for the rescue of the remaining crash survivors who were still with the downed plane.
|The rescue expedition set out from Santiago, Chile stopping in Los Maitenes when both Parrado and Canessa were also arriving there on their way to Puente Negro. From this rendezvous in Los Maitenes, who returned to the crash site with the rescue expedition?
Parrado. It was the morning of December 22, 1972 when the survivors heard the news that they were so desperately hoping for. The broadcast on the small transistor radio made it clear that Parrado and Canessa had made it and that help was finally on its way.
Parrado was recruited to go with the helicopter rescue expedition to help guide them to the crash site. Due to fog the helicopters could not arrive at the crash site until the afternoon of the 22nd. The helicopters had highly skilled search and rescue teams on board. Only half of the survivors could be flown out and on December 23rd, the remaining survivors were flown to safety. All sixteen survivors were taken to hospitals in Santiago where they were treated for altitude sickness, frostbite, broken bones, malnutrition, dehydration and scurvy.
|Which Santiago newspaper reported that the survivors had resorted to cannibalism?|
El Mercurio. The "El Mercurio" published a report on its front page on December 26, 1972, that the survivors of the Fairchild had chosen to resort to cannibalism. The survivors had been trapped on the mountain for 72 days. On December 28 the sixteen survivors held a press conference to tell of the events that took place over those 72 days.
In addition, they participated in the publication of two books "Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors" (1974) by Piers Paul Read and "Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My long Trek Home" (2006) by Nando Parrado with Vince Rause, two films "Stranded: I Have Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains" (2007) by Gonzalo Arijon and "Alive: The Miracle of the Andes" (1993) directed by Frank Marshall. There is also an official website called "Viven". In 1993 a documentary film was produced, directed and written by Jill Fullerton-Smith called "Alive: 20 Years Later".
|What became of the crash site after the rescue?|
Iron cross erected there. The bodies of the deceased were placed beneath a pile of stones about a half mile from the crash site. This grave is honored with an iron cross erected from the center of this pile of stones. Any debris which was strewn about was cleared and removed from the site. The remaining fuselage was burned and destroyed to prevent curiosity seekers from taking anything as souvenirs.
Colonel Julio Ferradas, Pilot
Lieutenant Colonel Dante Lagurara, Co-Pilot
Lieutenant Ramon Martínez
Corporal Carlos Roque
Corporal Ovidio Joaquin Ramírez
Jose Pedro Algorta
Jose Luis Inciarte
Graciela Augusto Gumila de Mariani
Juan Carlos Menéndez
Liliana Navarro Petraglia de Methol
Dr. Francisco Nicola
Esther Horta Pérez de Nicola
Eugenia Dolgay Diedug de Parrado
The Courageous Sixteen Who Survived:
José Pedro Algorta, 21
Roberto Canessa, 19
Alfredo "Pancho" Delgado, 24
Daniel Fernandez, 26
Roberto "Bobby" François, 20
Roy Harley, 20
José Luis "Coche" Inciarte, 24
Alvaro Mangino, 19
Javier Methol, 38
Carlos "Carlitos" Páez, 18
Nando Parrado, 22
Ramon "Moncho" Sabella, 21
Adolfo "Fito" Strauch, 24
Eduardo Strauch, 25
Antonio "Tintin" Vizíntin, 19
Gustavo Zerbino, 19
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