After enduring a month-long ordeal in the Colombian Amazon rainforest, four Indigenous children, who had been missing, were finally reunited with their relatives on Saturday. Despite feeling exhausted, their happiness was evident as their story reached a satisfying conclusion, capturing the attention of the entire nation.
These siblings, who had survived a small plane crash, were left to wander alone in the jungle until they were eventually discovered through a comprehensive rescue operation involving helicopters, aircraft, and sniffer dogs. The children, appearing gaunt and weak, were transported to a military hospital in Bogota via an army medical plane, as confirmed by AFP journalists present at the scene. Both Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez and President Gustavo Petro paid a visit to the hospital to meet the children, where Velasquez reported that they are on the path to recovery, although they are not yet able to consume solid food.
Throughout their challenging journey, Lesly, the eldest sibling at the tender age of 13, served as their guide, ensuring their survival. Notably, the two youngest children celebrated their birthdays in the jungle, emphasizing the resilience they exhibited in the face of adversity.
“It is thanks to her, her value and her leadership, that the three others were able to survive, with her care, her knowledge of the jungle,” Velasquez said.
General Pedro Sanchez, the leader of the search operation, acknowledged the crucial role played by the Indigenous individuals who participated in the rescue mission, attributing the successful discovery of the children to their efforts.
“We found the children: miracle, miracle, miracle!” he told reporters.
The children belonging to the Huitoto Indigenous group, with ages ranging from 13 to one, had been separated in the jungle since May 1st after their plane, a Cessna 206, crashed. Shortly after departing from Araracuara, a remote region in the Amazon, the pilot reported engine issues during their 350-kilometer (217-mile) journey to San Jose del Guaviare.
Tragically, the bodies of the pilot, the children’s mother, and a local Indigenous leader were discovered at the crash site. The plane was lodged in the trees, positioned nearly vertical. Authorities revealed that the group had been fleeing from threats imposed by members of an armed group.
“They are happy to see the family… they have all their senses,” the children’s grandfather, Fidencio Valencia, told reporters shortly after visiting them.
“They are children of the bush,” Valencia said, adding that they know how to survive in the jungle.
They “survived at first by eating a little flour (which was on board the plane), then seeds,” he said.
At the request of their father, General Sanchez will be made the youngest child’s godfather.
“For me, it is an honor,” the visibly moved officer told lcoal television, placing his hand on his heart.
Following the crash, a massive search operation was initiated, capturing worldwide interest, involving 160 soldiers and 70 Indigenous individuals with extensive knowledge of the jungle.
Army chief Helder Giraldo took to Twitter, expressing that the rescuers had covered an impressive distance of over 2,600 kilometers (1650 miles) in their efforts to locate the children. He remarked, “Something that appeared impossible has been accomplished.”
On Twitter, Petro shared a photograph revealing adults, some attired in military attire, caring for the children seated on tarps amidst the jungle. A rescuer could be seen holding a bottle to the mouth of the youngest child, cradling them in their arms.