The Craziest Plane Crash That Turned Survivors Into CannibalsApr 30, 2023
Imagine that you and some of your best friends are flying off to what you think will be a weekend to remember. You suddenly experience some bad turbulence, but it's nothing you haven't felt before. Then it gets worse. The
planefalls through the sky, luggage falls from above. You hold on to the arm of the seat; your knuckles whiten doing it. The next thing you know, you're frozen, still strapped to your chair, in a part of the
planethat's split apart. You
crashto the ground, but miraculously, you are still alive. You don't know it yet, but you've landed in one of the most unforgiving environments known to man.
There is nothing but mountains around you, no vegetation, no animals, nothing. At least you're alive, but soon you'll be hungry. It won't be long before your friend tells you, "I'm going to eat the pilot." As unbelievable as it sounds, that is exactly what happened. This is the story of the survivor that dwarfs all others. It is a story of heroism and sadness, a story that is brutal and one that we simply cannot imagine being a part of. Let's start from the beginning. It is October 12, 1972, a Thursday. Friends who play on the same rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay, are on their way to a game in Chile.
There are 45 of them on board the plane. Not only the young, strong and fit players, but also some of the team's family members, as well as some supporters and five team members. It is expensive to fly commercially to Chile, so they opted for the cheapest option, which in this case was to charter an air force plane. What they don't know is that this American-made Fairchild FH-227D has the nickname "lead sled", due to its high weight and relatively weak engines. They will soon find out why he has such an appalling security record. All they know now is that it is the cheapest way to fly over the Andes to play what will be a fun game of rugby in Santiago.
That first part of the trip is cut short by a terrible storm over the Andes and they are forced to make a stopover in Mendoza, Argentina. There is a direct route to get to Santiago from there, but the plane cannot fly the 25,000 to 26,000 feet (7,600 to 7,900 meters) needed to cross the mountains. Instead, they will take a route that looks like a U-turn. This route will skip the highest peaks and instead find a way around them. Now it's Friday the 13th and they're off again. The atmosphere is fun. The rugby ball is being thrown around the plane, it's all laughter and games.
One of the players, Nando Parrado, gives up his window seat to his friend so he can get a better view of the mountains. Nando has no idea that this small gesture will end up saving his life. Not long after, the turbulence begins. At first no one takes it seriously, but then someone points out that the mountains seem to be very close to the plane, like right outside. What they don't know is that the pilot and co-pilot made a terrible mistake. They told air traffic controllers that they would be at the airport in a minute. They couldn't see much because of the clouds, and they were wrong that minute, they were actually 11 minutes away.
They were still in the mountains and had not reached the safe place where they could turn right towards the airport. They went down anyway and were hit by more turbulence since they were right in the middle of the mountains where the winds are chaotic. The plane shot out, the clouds parted, and the pilots saw a black ridge just ahead of them. The plane tried to stop and accelerate, and now the passengers knew they were in trouble. The aircraft struck the crest, tearing off the rear of the aircraft and sending the aircraft hurtling forward. They were still about 4,200 meters (13,800 ft) above sea level when they likely collided with another mountain, causing the wings to detach, leaving only the front of the fuselage.
Those who were in the back of the plane have been thrown into the mountain range. Some are alive on the plane, but there is no time to think. Suddenly, what's left of the plane hits a snow-covered mountain. The fact that even this large part of the plane has survived is incredible. But what's even more incredible is what happens next. The plane begins to slide down the mountain like a sled, but somehow doesn't hit any rock outcrops or boulders, sliding down and down the mountain until finally coming to a stop 11,710 feet (3,570 meters) above level. from sea. Seats have been torn off and bodies have been smashed against the front of the cockpit.
People are scattered everywhere, but many of the passengers have somehow survived. Some are screaming, their limbs twisted, parts of the plane stuck in them. But they are surrounded by glaciers, so remote they don't even have a name. No one goes there and there is little hope of being found. It is very cold and it is difficult to breathe because the air is very thin at this altitude. Of the
survivors, the less injured begin to help the less fortunate. Some have broken bones, some are nearly dead from internal injuries, Nando is in a coma and will stay in one for three days.
Of the 45 passengers on board the plane, 12 of them died immediately when the plane hit the mountain or fell from the rear of the wrecked plane. Some bodies are still tied to their chairs, covered in snow and not far from the
crashsite. The first night is brutally cold, with temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 degrees Celsius). The
survivorscrowd into the fuselage and try to plug the holes with suitcases. They all mistakenly think that a rescue operation will find them and this will be their only night on the mountain. You could not be more wrong.
What they don't realize is that the plane's white color means it cannot be seen from the air. Five more people die from their injuries on that first night. Nando in a coma does not know that his mother is dead and his sister is dying. They were both alone on the flight because Nando was told that he could use the empty seats for free. Inviting them would turn out to be the biggest regret of his life. The next day the wounded are treated, some are still screaming because their legs and arms are broken in many places. The pilot is dead.
The co-pilot, who made that terrible mistake, is found crushed under the rubble but alive. He tells the survivors that he has a gun and asks them to shoot him and end his pain. They don't kill him, but he dies soon after. But now they need food. At high altitudes with such cold temperatures, the body burns calories extremely quickly in an attempt to stay warm. All luggage is searched, and while there is an endless inventory of cigarettes and plenty of alcohol, there isn't much food. In total, there are eight bars of chocolate, a tin of mussels, three jars of jam, a tin of almonds, some sweets, and some bottles of wine.
The survivors immediately make a ration plan. It's almost nothing to so many people and they have no idea how long it takes to last them. They have water at the very least, being able to melt it and channel it into empty wine bottles. Days go by and more die. On the tenth day, Nando, who is now conscious, holds his sister as she dies in her arms. He would later say that she went to sleep and "woke up in hell". And yet it will get worse, because then they heard on a transistor radio that they had found in the rubble that the search for them was called off.
They knew they were alone, cold and hungry. It was at this point of extreme despair that Nando told a friend: "I'm going to eat the pilot." In fact, some of the survivors had been turning this very idea over in their minds. One of them later told the media: “Our common goal was to survive, but what we lacked was food. We had long since run out of the scant crops we had found on the plane, and there was no vegetation or animal life to be seen. After a few days, we felt as if our own bodies were wasting away just to stay alive." They didn't see it as cannibalism.
If they wanted to survive and see their families again, it was what they had to do. There was no other choice, eat your friends or die. There were 27 people still alive at this point, which is a lot of mouths to feed. They started with the pilots, stripping the bodies of as much meat as possible, including organs, while their hungry brains told them, "eat more, eat all, don't waste a little." On the 17th the disaster occurred again. In the middle of the night they heard a noise, what one of them later described as the sound of wild horses running towards them.
It was an avalanche. Snow burst through the hole in the plane and the entire fuselage was squeezed. Those who were alive scrambled to dig for air and find their friends. Eight more died, and the rest were left in the dark, buried in snow, with little air to breathe, for three days. In time, the snow would melt and the fuselage would be back on top of the snow. Days passed and they survived by eating more of the dead. They smoked cigarettes and went out on little scouting missions. But after a few hundred meters they would be too tired.
The snow was too deep and the air too thin for his weakened state. They were also afflicted with snow blindness, essentially a sunburn to the eye that comes from the sun reflecting off the snow. To fight against their environment, they made makeshift snowshoes and sunglasses so they could get further away. Even then, they were surrounded on all sides by dangerous crevasses. One of the survivors would later say: "We feel like insects trapped in the larger forces of nature." They were right, there is almost no place on Earth where it would be more difficult for humans to survive.
In a room, they found the other part of the fuselage. Inside were batteries for the plane's radio, as well as chocolate, some candy, and comic books. They stayed there all night reading the comics by the light of a fire they had lit. For a while they hoped they could use batteries, but it soon became apparent that connecting a radio with many wires was not something any of them had the knowledge to do. As Nando would later say, "We were very depressed." For him, the only option now was to walk out of the mountains. They knew that Chile was to the west and they remembered that the pilot had told them that they were not far from their destination.
But they had no way of knowing that they were still 37 miles (59 km) from the nearest highway. But that would not be an easy walk. It was 37 miles of glaciers and rugged terrain, and they were far from a seasoned outdoorsman. But Nando knew that they had to walk through the mountains to Chile, it was his only option. They decided that they would stock up on human flesh and only the strongest would go, Nando, and two others named Roberto Canessa and Antonio Vizintin. On day 61, when the men set out, only 16 survivors were left alive. Some were sick and all were malnourished and battered by the elements.
Before leaving, a man named Carlitos Páez made them a sleeping bag out of parts of the plane's insulation sewn together with copper wire. If they hadn't had that, they would surely have frozen to death on their walk to freedom. It took them three days to climb the first mountain. Nando expected to see green valleys from the top of that mountain, but what he saw instead were more mountain ranges. Vizintin
turnedand gave his food to the others. Nando and Canessa said: "We will die, but we will die trying." They did not die. They walked for days, nearly passing out from exhaustion, but on the eighth day of their walk they found a river, saw green peeking through the melting snow, and most importantly, they saw a person on the other side of the river, though not they were able to cross to the other side to meet him.
They slept there that night and the next morning the man re
turned. He had brought with him a sheet of paper and a pen. He tied them to a rock and threw it across the river. Nando wrote on the paper: We are survivors of the plane crash. We don't have food. We can no longer walk. We are more in the mountains. Where are we?" and pulled him back. The man went to get help, himself many hours on horseback from civilization. On the 10th Nando and Canessa were finally picked up by the army. Their scrawny bodies carried over the backs of the horses.
Nando said at that moment that he was "ready to embrace life again." Soon, the helicopters would take Nando off to find his friends, and the pilots would ask how they could have walked on that terrain without equipment It was amazing, their trip was tracked by professionals years later and even with the latest equipment they found it difficult and very, very dangerous. On the 71st the first of the team was picked up and on the 72nd they took the rest. They were all suffering from various ailments, but all of those still alive eventually recovered, and in fact only one of them is not alive today.Once the newspapers stopped cheering the survivors, many began to wonder how they had survived so long without food.
It was impossible, literally impossible. Then came to light a photograph taken by rescuers of a human corpse whosebones had been stripped. The survivors admitted what they had done, and many in the public turned on them, calling them savage
cannibals. Nando later said that eating human flesh was not an easy decision, it was a last resort. He said: “We tried to eat strips of leather torn from pieces of luggage, even though we knew the chemicals they had been treated with would do us more harm than good. We opened up the seat cushions hoping to find straw, but found only inedible upholstery foam." It was a feast with friends dead or be killed, and one survivor who was reluctant to resort to cannibalism actually died.
But 16 of the survivors decided they would do whatever it took to stay alive, and so they made it down the mountain. With that in mind, would you have done the same? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other Cannibal Island: The Real Battle Royale video. Thanks for watching, and as always, don't forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time.
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