50 years ago, on October 13, 1972, a plane carrying Uruguayan amateur rugby team Old Christian’s Club, relatives of the players and fans, crashed over the Andes. Of the 45 inmates, 16 young men managed to survive 72 days in freezing cold and with minimal food supplies – but only because they ate parts of their deceased comrades. The bestseller “Survival” was written about the poignant story, which was later made into a film. An overview of the events of that time.

On the evening of October 13, 1972, a chartered Chilean military plane took off from the Argentine city of Mendoza to take the rugby team and their companions to Santiago de Chile. The machine disappeared from radar near the Chilean city of Curico. Planes from Chile, Argentina and Uruguay are looking for the missing plane, but do not recognize the white machine in the Andean snow. After eight days, the search is terminated.

Two months after the crash, the world is amazed to learn that there are survivors. Two of them, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, made their way through the mountains on foot to get help. On the tenth day, as they follow a river course at the foot of the mountains, they see a muleteer on the other side of the river. With the last of their strength, they throw a rock in the direction of the man who has a message on a piece of paper attached to it.

It reads: “I come from a plane that crashed into the mountains. I’m Uruguayan. We walked for ten days… There are 14 injured people on the plane. We have to get out of here quickly and we don’t know how. We have nothing to eat. We are weak. When will you come and pick us up? Please, we can’t even walk anymore. Where are we?”

The muleteer manages to initiate the rescue of the two weakened men. Rescue workers also quickly come to the aid of their malnourished fellow sufferers at the plane wreck. Within two days they are taken away from the crash site by helicopter.

The survivors report that their plane lost its route in the mountains, struck a ridge and hurtled down a glacier onto a snow bank. A dozen people died immediately as a result of the crash, including the pilot and co-pilot. A few others suffered serious injuries from which they later succumbed.

At an altitude of almost 4,000 meters, the others seek shelter from the freezing cold in the fuselage. After their meager food supplies are depleted, they search for roots and an herb called “donkey grass”. An avalanche kills several more. In the end, 16 of the 45 inmates survived, which was received as a miracle: “We are witnessing a miracle the world has never seen before,” said Uruguay’s chargé d’affaires in Chile, César Charlone.

Around December 24, rumors surfaced that the men survived through cannibalism. Two days later, this was confirmed by the head of the Chilean rescue operation. The Chilean newspaper “La Segunda” quotes one of the survivors anonymously: “We made the terrible decision: In order to survive, we would have to overcome all obstacles, be they religious or biological.”

On December 29, the survivors in Montevideo released a joint statement saying they had nothing left to eat. “We said to ourselves: if Jesus shared his body and blood with the apostles at the last supper, shouldn’t we see that we should do the same?”

The Catholic Church in Uruguay and Pope Paul VI. absolve the survivors, who are now being celebrated as heroes, of any guilt in this matter. In this way, devout Catholics can return to their normal lives with peace of mind.

Canessa becomes a cardiologist. In 2020 he saves other people’s lives again by building ventilators for Covid 19 patients. He told the AFP news agency: “When I saw people dying from lack of oxygen all over the world, it reminded me of the mountain, when I saw that my friends could not breathe. I said to myself: No , that must not happen to me again.”