The eldest sister’s skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest

Avatar of Nick John By Nick John Dec17,2023 #Amazon #children
The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest 3
The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest 3

On May 1, Lesly, Soleiny, 9 years old, and her two half-siblings, Tien Noriel, 5 years old, and Cristin, 11 months old, boarded a small Cessna 206 plane of Avianline Charters to leave the Araracuara jungle area.

Accompanying the four children were mother Magdalena Mucutui Valencia, indigenous leader Herman Mendoza Hernández and the pilot.

The children’s father, Manuel Ranoque, said Valencia was seriously injured after the plane crashed but lived for four days, before asking his children to leave to find help.

The scene of the plane crash in the Amazon forest in May. Photo: Colombia Accident Investigation Committee

According to Mr. Mucutui, three adults on the plane died immediately when the plane crashed into the ground, while four children sitting in the back survived.

Colombia’s Ministry of Defense identified Lesly as a `key factor` in ensuring the children’s safety in the days that followed.

`She immediately realized that her second and third siblings were injured, so she opened her mother’s bag, took out their clothes, tore them off and bandaged them,` Mr. Mucutui said while in the Bogota hospital where the children were being treated.

Lesly then looked in the plane’s wreckage and discovered a bag containing three pounds of tapioca starch that indigenous leader Hern├índez was carrying.

When the tapioca ran out, the children decided to try to find a way to escape the tropical forest, where there were always wild animals and armed rebels lurking.

During the next five weeks wandering in the forest, the children ate `palm fruits, wild mangoes, fruits from the forest,` said General Pedro Sanchez, who was in charge of the search operation for Colombia’s special forces.

The family said the children picked up Couma macrocarpa, a white, creamy fruit to eat, and Oenocarpus bacaba, a small purple fruit that resembles a plum.

Luis Acosta, a search team member with the Colombian Indigenous Organization, said the children also ate seeds, roots and other plants they determined could be eaten.

The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest

The Colombian Air Force cares for babies on a flight to Bogota on June 9.

Lesly carried a bottle of soda water from the plane and followed a path near the river so she could always get drinking water, said Henry Guerrero, a member of the indigenous search team.

Guerrero said that in addition to a water bottle, Lesly also brought a suitcase containing an umbrella, a towel, a flashlight and some clothes.

Lesly also brought two cell phones, perhaps to help the children `forget their fears at night` until the phones ran out of battery, because in the forest there was no signal to call for help.

`Thanks to Lesly’s leadership and courage, the three children were able to survive under her care and knowledge of the jungle,` Colombia’s Ministry of Defense said.

The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest

Amazon jungle adventure of 4 children

Rescuers took care of 4 children after they were found on June 9.

According to Guerrero, Lesly is `extremely smart` when choosing the most essential items to carry in her suitcase.

`They know what’s edible and what’s not. They survive because of that and because of their mental strength,` Acosta said.

112 elite Colombian soldiers, in coordination with 72 volunteers from indigenous tribes and sniffer dogs, participated in the search.

The search operation was made even more difficult because the children ran away from the calls of the search team and the sound of barking dogs, due to their fear of countless threats in the forest, where rebel groups often operate.

`When they heard the sound of the helicopter, they hid under a big tree because they were afraid. When people and the army searched, Lesly said sometimes the soldiers were only 10 meters away from the children, but she had to cover the youngest child’s mouth to keep them away.

He said Wilson, a police dog participating in the operation, at one point found the children.

The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest

Wilson, 6 years old, a police dog played an important role in the search operation but disappeared in the forest.

When asked if the four children were afraid when night fell, he answered, `No, they are not afraid. I asked them what they did when it rained, and they said they used tree branches and big leaves to cover themselves.`

Rescuers traveled a total distance of more than 2,600 km, finally finding 4 children about 5 km from the plane wreck on June 9.

The children were quickly taken out of the forest by military helicopters to the hospital for health and psychological treatment.

`The children’s recovery is going as expected and will require another two to three weeks,` Caceres said.

The eldest sister's skills helped the three children survive 40 days in the Amazon forest

40-day campaign to search for 4 children in the Amazon jungle

The moment the babies were pulled onto the helicopter in the middle of the night.

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