Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 – Surviving by eating the dead

Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, also known less formally as the Andes flight disaster, was a chartered airline flight carrying 45 rugby team members and associates that crashed in the Andes on Friday the 13th of October, 1972. The last of the 16 remaining survivors were rescued by December 23, 1972. More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash and several survivors of the initial impact had died of cold and injuries by the next day. Twenty-nine were alive several days after accident but the number of survivors was further reduced by an avalanche sweeping over their wreckage shelter.

The crash survivors, thinking they would be found and rescued within hours, a day or two at worst, had very little food and no way to make heat in the harsh climate, at over 3,600 meters (11,700+/- feet) altitude. Faced with starvation and the radio news reports they heard that the search and rescue mission for them had been abandoned, the survivors eventually fed on the dead passengers who were preserved in the snow. Rescue teams were not aware of the survivors until 72 days after the crash when survivors Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, after a 12 day snow trek across the treacherous Andes mountains, found a Chilean huaso who guided them to safety where help was found for the other survivors still trapped at the crash site.



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