Andes Flight Disaster Of 1972
Andes Flight Disaster. Source: (historyhit.com)
The thought of becoming a victim in a disaster of any kind is not a pleasant thought. Most people rely on rescue workers such as firemen, ambulance attendants, and policemen as well as the Coast Guard and other related personnel to help them in times of emergencies. But what if there were no one to contact for help because it was believed that there were no survivors. Such was the case of those who became the victims of the Andes Flight Disaster of 1972.
It was Friday, October 13 of 1972 when the Rugby team “Old Christians” was traveling from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile to play the team there. There were a total of 45 passengers on the flight. Problems began to arise beginning with the weather, as they were flying over Argentina, which forced them to land and spend a night there before they could continue. Because of the dangerous mountain peaks of the Andes, the flight plan had been changed. They instead attempted to fly parallel to the mountain peaks that would take them to a mountain pass out of the danger zone. At least that was the plan.
That plan failed miserably. The pilot, erroneously, turned directly into the Andes Mountains because he was not where he thought he was. With cloud cover hiding the mountains from his view, along with not having enough flying experience, he was unable to control the steering of the plane quickly enough to avoid the disaster of hitting the mountain peaks.
As they got close to the border of Chile, they were in an area of unexplored remote mountains. It was the peak of one of these mountains that took out one of the wings and sent the plane into a tailspin. The other wing was also lost as they spiraled downward into a mountainside and eventually landing into a snowbank.
It was a miracle that all of them did not lose their lives, but twelve of them did die from the impact of the crash. Besides those that died immediately, there were several that were injured from the crash. Unfortunately for them, the only one of the passengers who was a doctor was one of the deceased; but, there were two medical students still alive. They used whatever they could find from the wreckage to use as medical equipment to care for the wounded.
The survivors tried whatever they could possibly think of to let someone know they were alive. With little food and no way of getting off the snow-capped mountain, they attempted to send an SOS message by writing it with lipstick in the snow. It was a helpless situation. In an attempt to keep warm and stay alive, they hunched together and prayed while waiting for help to come. After eight days of listening to a radio they found, they heard the distressing news that the search for them had been called off.
With no help coming from anyone, it was totally up to them to survive on their own. As they grew more and more desperate for food, they had to make a disgusting choice. It was not an easy decision for any of them but it was a matter of survival. They had to put aside whatever hesitations they had and give in to the inevitable horrible act of cannibalism – to eat from the bodies of their dead fellow friends and passengers.
As the days went by, more of them died and on October 29, eight of them died from an avalanche. While buried under the snow, the last woman in the group died, but the rest of them managed to stay alive by poking a hole through the snow with a metal pole to give them air to breathe. It was after this event that they finally decided that they were never going to survive if somebody did not try to leave the plane and find help. They chose the men who were in the best shape to go.
The three men that were chosen to go were Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado, and “Tinin” Vintinzin. After going to the east first, they found the tail of the plane but they had to go to the west in order to reach green lands with a possibility to find help, but it was the most treacherous and impossible way to go. It took them three days to reach the summit while fighting the bitter cold and sleeping in homemade sleeping bags at night. After nine days Parrado and Canessa were totally exhausted and they had sent Vintinzin back to get food.
Through tired eyes, they spotted a man on a horse. Because they couldn’t communicate across the river, they managed to write out a message, tied it to a rock, and threw it across. Soon after that, help came and ultimately, rescue copters were brought to the crash site, and finally, after 72 days, to pick up the survivors. There were sixteen survivors left at that point. These survivors miraculously survived conditions that should have killed them long before.
These are their names: Carlos Paez Rodriguez, Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado, Jose Pedro Algorta, Alfredo “Pancho” Delgado, Daniel Fernandez, Roberto “Bobby” Francois, Roy Harley, Jose “Coche” Luis Inciarte, Alvaro Mangino, Javier Methol, Ramon Sabella, Adolfo “Fito” Strauch, Eduardo Strauch, Antonio “Tintin” Vizintin, Gustavo Zerbino.
A movie was made about the Andes Flight disaster that came out in 1993 called “Alive.”