Survivors recount horrifying decision to eat friends’ bodies after Andes plane crash

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – The grim story of survival after a horrific plane crash in the Andes in 1972 has inspired a new Netflix film and Channel 5 documentary. The Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash left 45 passengers and crew in an unimaginable ordeal of 72 days of starvation and harsh conditions, with only 16 surviving the disaster.

The ill-fated flight, carrying members of Montevideo’s Old Christians Club rugby union team, crashed into the remote Andes mountains after veering off course in dense fog. The survivors were forced to make the harrowing decision to eat the bodies of their friends in order to stay alive. The flight was originally headed to Santiago, Chile for a match, but never made it there.

Rescue efforts were called off after eight days, leaving the survivors stranded and battling extreme weather conditions. Over the course of 72 days, 13 more passengers died from exposure and the survivors were finally rescued. They endured weeks of extreme conditions, fashioning sleeping bags, melting snow for water, and resorting to cannibalism to survive.

One survivor, Carlos Paez, recalled the terrible decision of resorting to cannibalism, stating, “Our friends were some of the first organ donors in the world – they helped to nourish us and kept us alive.” Others made a pact that if one of them died, the others were obliged to eat their bodies.

Nando Parrado, another survivor, described the desperate situation, saying, “Unless we wanted to eat the clothes we were wearing, there was nothing here but aluminium, plastic, ice, and rock.” On December 12, a group of survivors set off on a 10-day journey to seek help in Chile, leading to their eventual rescue.

Every year on December 22, the survivors gather to mark the anniversary of their rescue. In 2022, they commemorated the 50th anniversary of the tragic event. The tale of survival has captured the attention of filmmakers and documentary producers, shedding light on the incredible journey of those who endured the Andes plane crash.