The crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571

I’ve always had somewhat of an odd relationship with planes and flying I love flying — the part in the air, at least, the security not so much — but it also terrifies me The latter, at least, is a feeling I’d imagine a lot of people share Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on a plane — the worst of which, of course, would be the plane crashing But the human will is strong This is the story of a plane crash that left survivors in a difficult situation — either die on the mountain they were stranded on, or resort to one of humanity’s oldest taboos This is the story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 [airplane noises] Flight 571 was chartered by Uruguay’s Old Christians Club The amateur rugby team was headed to Santiago, Chile to play in a match against one of their big rivals, Old Grangonian According to alpineexpeditions.net, the trip spanned about 1,500 kilometers (or around 311 miles) and was supposed to take around four hours Friends and family members were also brought on board to pay for the cost of the plane Altogether, the plane ended up with 40 passengers There are a couple more things I feel like I should point out before we move on The first is just how young most of these passengers were The rugby team was affiliated with a local high school, and most of the members were in their late teens or early twenties A few were med school students The oldest passengers were a married couple, Javier and Liliana Methol. Javier was a part time coach for the team At the time of the crash, Liliana was 35 and Javier was 36 — still not very old at all I believe the school the rugby team was affiliated with was Stella Maris College, which was a Catholic school where many of the team members attended Being American, I’m assuming South America uses the term “college” to refer to what we would know of as “high school.” The second thing I want to bring up is related to this a little bit, which is that all or at least most of the passengers were Catholic, which will become important later The plane took off from Montevideo, Uruguay, on October 12, 1972 with 40 passengers and five crew members But what was supposed to be a four hour trip went wrong pretty quickly Due to bad weather, the plane had to make an overnight stop in Mendoza, Argentina At first, the passengers were annoyed at this unplanned layover because it meant they would get to spend less time in Chile, and because they didn’t think the weather was that bad But once they got to Mendoza, they decided to make the most of it and went out to explore the city At some point in the night, some of the team members met a girl I don’t know exactly how old she was or much else about her, but apparently they hung out with her that night And at some point during the night, she made a joke about how their plane would crash the next day because it would be Friday the 13th. But this was just a joke; nobody took her seriously The plane left Mendoza around 2:18 pm on Friday, October 13 Just over an hour after takeoff, the pilot mistakenly thought they had reached the Chilean city of Curicó and prepared the plane for landing They were actually about 70 miles away from Curicó, close to the Chilean border but still in the remote mountains of western Argentina At about 3:30 pm, the plane’s right wing struck a mountain The right wing, then the left wing then the tail were ripped off before the plane stopped on the mountain It continued to skid for about 5,000 feet until it came to a halt about 11,500 feet up Years later, a survivor named Gustavo Zerbino would say the following about the crash: Of the 45 people on board, 12 died in the crash, leaving the rest stranded on the remote, snowy mountain And for the survivors, the real terror was just beginning At first, survivors thought they would be rescued within a few hours, maybe a day But one day turned into two, then three, then a week Gustavo Zerbino, who was a med school student, tried to tend to the wounds of the injured passengers, with the help of another med school student, 19-year-old Roberto Canessa But they couldn’t save everyone On their first night of being stranded, five more people died, and at least one more died over

the next few days There were other early setbacks too The cockpit had been crushed in the crash. They found the co-pilot in the debris, barely alive He tried to tell them how to use the plane’s radio but could barely get the words out I didn’t find anything about him after this, and he was close to death at this point, so I assume he died pretty soon after this Four days after the crash, two planes flew overhead The survivors tried to get their attention by waving their arms, but ultimately failed They knew there had to be searches going on, but weren’t sure if rescuers would be able to find them Still, they did their best to make it with what they had At first, they stayed inside the plane’s fuselage for warmth and subsisted on the plane’s meager food supply, which consisted mostly of chocolate and wine and lasted about a week, maybe eight days at the most They tried to eat the leather from their suitcases, as well as shoes, wood and hair gel, but all of these things proved to be inedible Still, many survivors stepped up and tried to make things easier for everyone in some pretty creative ways They made knives out of plastic from the plane’s windows Seat cushions were converted into snowshoes and sunglasses to shield their eyes were crafted from a sun visor, wire and a bra They also tried to write ‘SOS’ in lipstick on the fuselage roof but ended up not having enough lipstick On a somewhat related note, only five of the passengers were female There was also the issue of water The human body needs even more hydration than usual in high altitudes They were surrounded by frozen water in the form of snow, but eating the snow actually increased their chances for hypothermia So a survivor took aluminum sheets from the back part of the seats and held them up to the sun. This melted the snow so people could drink it Like I said earlier, most of the plane’s passengers were Catholic An 18-year-old survivor named Carlos Paez led them in a nightly rosary in the plane’s fuselage They were clearly making the most of their situation, doing what they could to survive, but there would be more than one setback in the weeks to come Meanwhile, several searches were being conducted for the missing plane At least three separate countries led their own searches, and the Chilean Air Rescue Service held one as well But it didn’t take long for them to lose hope The plane was 70 miles off course when it crashed, and searchers quickly realized they were looking in all the wrong locations They also realized it would be difficult for them to spot the white plane in the white snow Most sources I read said the search was called off after eight days Since there were multiple searches mentioned, I’m not sure which one was called off and another source said three countries called off their searches at this time But at least one search did continue on the ground, and a psychic was brought in to help, recruited by some of the parents of the plane’s passengers From everything I’ve read, the most tenacious searcher was Carlos Paez’s father, a well-known Chilean artist named Paez Vilaro Vilaro went to villages in Chile asking people if they’d seen signs of a plane crash, and offering a cash reward for information People thought he was crazy, continuing to search for the people who they were sure were dead But he never gave up On October 23, ten days after the crash the survivors heard a radio broadcast that said the search (whichever one it was) had been called off At first, they were angry, but quickly realized they would have to take action themselves if they wanted to survive One survivor you’ll be hearing a lot about is then-22-year-old Nando Parrado Parrado’s mother and sister had been on the plane with him His mother died in the crash, and Parrado got a head injury in the ensuing chaos and almost died himself After the crash, someone thought to lay his head on a block of ice, which ultimately saved his life He regained consciousness three days after the crash, but his sister, Suzy, later died in his arms When Parrado heard the radio broadcast, he was sure they were all going to die on the mountain But if that was going to happen, he wanted to go out fighting It’s not 100 % clear who brought up the topic of cannibalism first Different sources have named different people — one said it was Nando Parrado, another said it was Roberto Canessa, and another said it was another survivor whose name, unfortunately, I can’t remember It’s also not clear when it was brought up — some sources say it was before this radio broadcast, some say it was because of the radio broadcast, and some say it was afterwards and not related

But one thing that seems to be clear no matter what source you read is that at least some survivors were entertaining this thought from pretty early on Remember, their food supply ran out pretty early — eight days at the most And whoever did end up bringing it up, the other passengers seemed to be relieved that at least some of them were on the same page At some point, Nando Parrado thought back to the plane’s pilot and co-pilot, who were already dead He turned to one of his teammates and told him that he wanted to eat the pilot Roberto Canessa later said this about the first time the team decided to eat human flesh: He would also refer to the decision as “our final goodbye to innocence.” The survivors started with the bodies of the pilot and co-pilot since they didn’t know them very well Nando Parrado later said that when he ate human flesh, it had no taste Carlos Paez said it had “roughly the same flavor” as steak tartare Gustavo Zerbino said human flesh tasted just like other meat but slightly sweeter But not everyone was immediately on board with the idea The Methols, Javier and Liliana, were initially reluctant but ultimately partook in the cannibalism Javier convinced himself to do it for the couple’s four children, who he believed God wanted him to see again Liliana was told to see it as somewhat of a Holy Communion Another woman died 60 days after the crash, I believe because she couldn’t bring herself to continue eating human flesh and starved to death But Nando Parrado always defended this decision He says the survivors made a pact to “donate” their bodies He would go on to say: “If I die please use my body so at least one of us can get out of here and tell our families how much we love them.” Carlos Paez also said he never felt guilty for engaging in cannibalism because he would have died otherwise He was also able to convince some of the other survivors to eat human flesh because it had proteins they needed All of the survivors ended up eating flesh at least once, and would later pass around a tube of toothpaste for “dessert.” But even with their newfound food source, the setbacks continued On October 29, an avalanche tumbled down the mountain and hit the fuselage Eight more people were killed in this avalanche Among the casualties were team captain Marcelo Perez del Castillo as well as Liliana Methol, the last of the five female passengers to die And there was the cold Temperatures on the mountain sometimes fell as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit Even worse, when the plane took off from Montevideo, it had been warm and the heaviest clothing anyone on the plane seemed to have were some sports jackets They also needed even more calories than human flesh would provide — people need a higher caloric intake at higher altitudes Nando Parrado ended up losing 97 pounds over the course of their time on the mountain And there was still the looming fact that rescue didn’t seem to be coming any time soon — and that looking for the plane was probably like finding that proverbial needle in a haystack Several treks out were attempted, either to find other parts of the plane or civilization or help At one point, Gustavo Zerbino and two other men went up to the top of the mountain, thinking they’d be able to see Chile But all they saw was snow in every direction On November 17, Nando Parrado, Roberto Canessa and another man named Antonio Vizintin set out to find help. They were hoping to reach Chile They ended up finding the tail of the plane, where they found batteries for the radio But the batteries couldn’t be carried back to their base camp at the fuselage because they were too big

So on the 19th, they went back to base camp to get the radio so they could bring it to the batteries They tried to connect the battery to the radio but it didn’t work By December, warmer weather caused a lot of the snow on the mountain to melt, making a potential trek for help a bit easier So the three men decided to go out again They left on December 12, taking a sleeping bag as well as a three day supply of “food” (human flesh) packed in socks Before he left, Nando Parrado authorized the group to eat the bodies of his mother and sister There’s conflicting information on why Parrado chose December 12 One source said he didn’t want to wait too long to go back out because he didn’t want to be too weak to make the trip Another source said the death of a passenger named Numa actually convinced him to leave on the 12th So I’m not exactly sure what his reasoning was But this trip would prove to be very important Meanwhile, despite the official searches being called off, Paez Vilaro continued to look for his son and the other missing passengers At some point in December, members of the Chilean Air Force saw a cross in the snow and thought it might have been made by the survivors But it turned out to have nothing to do with them — it was actually a device used by Argentinian officials to measure snow levels Back in the mountains, Antonio Vizintin ended up walking back to the base camp, but his companions pressed on Like I said earlier, Nando Parrado had been traveling on the plane with his mother and sister, who had both since died But his father and at least one other sibling were backin Uruguay The thought of seeing his father again motivated him to keep going Roberto Canessa thought of his own mother as well as his girlfriend, both of whom I assume were both back home in Uruguay as well, to keep him going But the trip was much further and longer than they expected At one point, Parrado wondered what would happen if Roberto Canessa broke his leg — would he carry him up the mountain the rest of the way or leave him behind? At at least one point, they were sure they would die, but they pressed on anyway By December 20, Nando Parrado had walked 38 miles in worn out rugby shoes, and all his efforts were about to pay off That day, they encountered a group of men who have been described by some sources as “ranchers” and others as “herders.” I’m assuming these two terms are similar At first, it was hard for them to communicate with one another because they were on the opposite sides of a river Around 8 pm, one of the ranchers shouted at them “tomorrow!” The next day, Parrado and Canessa met back up with the ranchers. They ended up communicating with them by writing notes, tying them to rocks and throwing them across the river One of the notes, the most well-known, reads as follows, though I’m not sure which of the men wrote it So I know there’s a discrepancy here with the dates Most sources said the two men set out on December 12th and wrote this note on December 21st That would be nine days, not ten I’m not sure what happened here It’s possible the sources I read got it wrong It’s also possible that Parrado and/or Canessa lost track of the days as they were hiking and thought they had been walking for 10 days when it had actually been eight or nine The ranchers contacted police, and Parrado and Canessa were rescued Back at camp, the remaining 14 survivors had found a smaller radio that worked They learned about this rescue via that radio On December 22, helicopters were flown to the site of the crash Six survivors were rescued that day, the remaining eight the next day Altogether, out of the 45 people on the plane, 16 had survived — Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado and the 14 back at base camp The men still on the mountain had been stranded there for 72 days Their rescue was seen as a Christmas miracle The rescue made international news, and all 16 survivors became instant celebrities But reactions to their ordeal were mixed Some people regarded them as heroes, brave men who had beaten the odds and survived a terrible situation But when the survivors admitted to cannibalism, there was backlash A lot of this backlash was from their fellow Catholics, who considered cannibalism a grave sin regardless of the circumstances

One survivor told the media they had been inspired by the last supper, which seemed to quell things a bit A Catholic priest later told them eating flesh was okay in their situation because they would have died otherwise The Catholic church ultimately ended up absolving them of any sin I’m not Catholic, and the idea of cannibalism being sinful was honestly new to me Judging by the research I did for this video, it still seems to be something that is debated among Catholics So I’m not sure how representative this backlash was of all Catholics or the Catholic church In 1973, 11 of the mothers whose children had died on the mountain funded a library called “Our Sons” in the Carrasco neighborhood where most of the passengers had lived In 1975, the book Alive was published Author Piers Paul Read interviewed the survivors for the book and became close to them But once the book was released, they had problems with his descriptions of them eating human flesh They were afraid he had painted them in a bad light and were afraid that the book would cause more public backlash But he stood his ground and didn’t change any details, and the survivors eventually came around The only survivor who never had issues with the book was Nando Parrado Other people were upset that the survivors profited off this book, as well as public speaking and interviews They saw it as them profiting off a tragedy (As of 2010, Nando Parrado got 200 speaking requests a year.) But despite the public eye on them, as well as the controversy, most of the survivors ended up fading from the public spotlight and ended up living out relatively normal lives All of them still live in the same neighborhood in Montevideo, and remain friends to this day They try to get together every year on December 22, the anniversary of their rescue They also stay in touch with Sergio Catalán, one of the ranchers who rescued them The people who died in the crash — or in the ensuing weeks — were buried at the site Some survivors don’t want to go back to the site of the crash, but others make the trek up regularly to visit the graves of their loved ones People from around the world also visit the memorial, despite the long and hard trek up In 1992, plans were made for a Life magazine article on the story The survivors signed a contract with the magazine saying they couldn’t talk about the story to any other news sources. They would also get a percentage of the foreign sales from the issue, which was released in February 1993 They said they signed this contract so they wouldn’t get overrun by reporters Later that year, the movie adaptation of the book Alive was released, with Ethan Hawke playing Nando Parrado In October 2012, 40 years after the crash, the survivors flew to Santiago to play a match against the Old Grangonian team they were supposed to play all those years ago There was an anniversary ceremony with military jets dropping parachutists draped in Chilean and Uruguayan flags. There were also framed photographs of the victims who had died In 2006, a foundation called Fundación Viven was established This translates roughly to “Living Foundation.” It was formed in memory of the crash and the people who died Their mission is “to encourage the essential values of the human spirit, to work toward creating change that will have a positive impact on society.” Roberto Canessa’s girlfriend, who he thought of to get through the ordeal, later became his wife He’s now a pediatric cardiologist and believes he was spared so he could help the children he now works with After surviving the crash but losing his wife, Javier Methol went back to his old job at a cigarette company. Like many survivors, he also became a public speaker He remarried and had four more children with his new wife He died in 2015 at the age of 79, the first (and, so far, only) survivor to later die There are tons upon tons of movies, TV shows, specials and documentaries about the case — way too many to go into here, but I did want to highlight a few The most well known, of course, are Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read as well as the movie adaptation Several of the survivors have also written their own books Nando Parrado recounted his story in Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and my Long Trek Home Roberto Canessa’s book is titled I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives Another survivor named Eduardo Strauch gave his own account in Out of the Silence: After

the Crash Strauch decided to tell his story when a mountaineer found his jacket and wallet on the mountain and returned them to him There are also plenty of noteworthy documentaries I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash premiered on the History Channel in 2010 and it marked the first time Nando Parrado had ever actually appeared on camera to talk about the crash Another documentary has a somewhat darker story to it In I Am Alive: Surviving the Andes Plane Crash, a photograph of some of the survivors appears In the bottom right corner of the photo, you can see what appears to be a human spine According to The New York Post, this is an actual photo from the crash site and the spine is real Other people online have debated this Since it was featured in a documentary, it’s possible it was a reenactment I haven’t seen the documentary, so I can’t say for sure Another documentary is Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains I assume this title was taken from the note that either Parrado or Canessa wrote to the ranchers Some of the footage from the 40th anniversary rugby match was shown in this documentary The movie’s cinematographer, Cesar Charlone, is a friend of Nando Parrado This was also the only movie that got the blessing of all the survivors One more documentary I want to mention is an episode of the National Geographic show Trapped which you can watch on YouTube — I will leave a link below There’s also an album called Miracle In The Andes: Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 The music was written by composer and artist Adam Young and is available in several different places But I will leave a link below where you can get all of them So that’s just about all I have for you today on the crash of Flight 571 Obviously this is a very dark story, but also inspiring As I was researching this, I couldn’t help but be in awe at these 16 men who defied the odds and survived something that most people didn’t expect them to survive So what do you think of this story, and do you think that you would be able to engage in so-called “survival cannibalism” if you were in a similar situation? Let me know in the comments If you enjoyed this video be sure to like and share it, and for more dark content I hope you will consider subscribing and hitting the bell A few of you have told me that my videos weren’t showing up in your subscription feed This is a problem that’s been going on with YouTube for awhile, and it’s something I’ve noticed in my own feed lately. Unfortunately there’s not much I can do about it, so if you want to be notified every time I post a new video, be sure to hit that notification bell Thanks so much for watching, and I will see you next time [airplane noises]