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Brave 11-year-old kept siblings alive in jungle says proud grandfather

3 min read

The grandfather of the miracle child survivors of a Columbian air crash on May 1st, has revealed how his 13-year-old granddaughter, Lesly, was a “very brave girl” and protected her three siblings in the middle of the thick jungle for 40 days. Despite the solitude, the situation and the uncertainty, he claims she “never felt fear”. 

The four children who were discovered alive in a South American jungle after going missing for 40 days are now recovering in hospital, local authorities have said.

Siblings Lesly, aged 13, Soleiny, 9, Tien Noriel, 4, and baby Cristin, just 12 months old, are safe and secure at a military hospital in Bogota, Colombia, weeks after they survived a plane crash in the rain forest, about 300 miles south of the capital and near the borders with Ecuador and Peru.

The children, all members of the indigenous Huitoto people, went missing in the jungle on May 1 after the light plane they were travelling in crashed. Three adults, including the pilot and the children’s mother Magdalena Mucutuy, died as a result of the crash and their bodies were located inside the plane.

READ MORE: Mother told Colombia plane crash children to ‘save themselves’ before dying

Speaking to Columbian news outlet, Semana, with director, Vicky Dáila, Mr Mucutuy explained children of the indigenous community are taught how to survive in the jungle and understand their surroundings and this would have helped survival skills.

He said: “We take them along the river teaching them how to fish, how to eat fruit, which fruit to eat and which fruit not to eat, as there are poisonous fruits.”

Mr Mucutuy explained how the children waited for four days for someone to come and help them. He added: “After four days there was no one to pick them up and so they took the step to walk through the jungle to see if they could find a stream or a path, to get there or to get to a big river.”

Throughout their time stranded in the jungle, “brave” Lesly did not see any wild animals and her thoughts were concentrated around survival and getting out of the situation and becoming rescued.

To sleep, she constructed “little huts” and her siblings would lay down to sleep. Mr Mucutuy said: “They cried from hunger, from tiredness and from the cold” and it was “a miracle” that they were found.

The plane – a Cessna 206 – was carrying the seven people on a route between Araracuara in Caqueta province and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, when it issued a mayday alert due to engine failure.

Their mother, who died some time after the crash, is thought to have given the children some survival tips and told them to leave the plane to find a way out when it was becoming clear that an immediate rescue was unlikely.

In hospital, Lesly and Soleiny Mucutuy made drawings of their ordeal, including one of a Belgian Shepherd rescue dog that went missing during the mission to save them.

“The jungle saved them,” President Gustavo Petro declared. “They are children of the jungle, and now they are also children of Colombia.”

Defense Minister Ivan Velasquez paid tribute to the army’s “unshakeable and tireless” work, as well as to the indigenous people who took part in the search.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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