Officials in Colombia report that four children missing since their plane crashed in the jungle more than two weeks ago have been discovered alive and well.
In the accident, their mother and the other adults died. The government agency for child welfare, ICBF, reported receiving information from the field that the children were discovered to be in good health. However, personnel involved in the search have yet to see the children.
The Cessna 206 light aircraft they were traveling in vanished on May 1 while en route from Araracuara to San José del Guaviare in the Amazon rainforest of southern Colombia. Previously, the pilot had reported engine issues.
The plane was eventually located on Tuesday, 15 days after it had vanished, after a massive search effort involving more than 100 soldiers. At the accident site in Caquetá province, the bodies of the pilot, co-pilot, and Magdalena Mucutuy, 33, the mother of the four children, were discovered.
However, the 13-year-old, 9-year-old, 4-year-old, and 11-month-old children were nowhere to be found.
The search teams have uncovered evidence that the indigenous Huitoto children survived the collision. The sniffer dogs discovered a child's water container, a pair of scissors, a hair tie, and half-digested fruit.
The search teams also discovered a makeshift shelter constructed from twigs and branches. Colonel Juan Jose Lopez mentioned that the children who were aboard the plane were alive. They found traces at a different location, a place where they may have sheltered and also away from the crash site.
The military deployed helicopters that played a recorded message from the children's grandmother in the Huitoto language, imploring them to remain in their current location. The search was hindered by torrential rains, but the Colombian Institute for Child Welfare informed the president on Wednesday that locals had discovered the children.
President Petro proclaimed the news via social media, stating that after an exhaustive search, they had been located. However, confusion ensued when Colombia's armed forces stated that they had not yet been able to make contact with the children due to the difficult meteorological conditions and the difficult terrain and therefore could not corroborate the news of their rescue.
Avianline, the local airline that owned the crashed aircraft, issued a statement indicating that it had also received reports that the children had been located.
One of its pilots landing on a dirt strip in Cachiporro, a nearby community, received news that locals there had been alerted by radio from a remote location named Dumar and he was told that the children had been found. He stated that they would be transported to Cachiporro by watercraft. The company added that it had no means of confirming whether or not the information was accurate, but that the arrival of the children by boat may have been delayed because heavy rains have rendered the river impassable.
The father of the children had previously stated that he was not giving up hope. He revealed to Caracol Radio that his sister was once disoriented in the forest for a month and was able to find her way back.
It is believed that the knowledge of fruits and jungle survival abilities of the Huitoto people would have increased the young children's chances of surviving the ordeal.