Monday 19 February 2018

Survivors mark cannibal plane crash

Former members of Uruguay's rugby team Daniel Fernandez, 66, left, and Eduardo Strauch, 65, (AP)
Former members of Uruguay's rugby team Daniel Fernandez, 66, left, and Eduardo Strauch, 65, (AP)

A Uruguayan rugby team has played a match that was postponed for four decades after their plane crashed in the Andes, stranding some members for more than two months and forcing them to eat human flesh to stay alive.

The Old Christians Club squared off in Santiago against Chile's Old Grangonian Club to mark the 40th anniversary of a crash made internationally famous by a best-selling book and a Hollywood movie, Alive.

Military jets flew over the field where parachutists in Chilean and Uruguayan flags landed, and survivors wept when officials unveiled a commemorative frame with pictures of those who died in the snowy peaks.

The Uruguayan air force plane that carried the team crashed in a mountain pass in October 1972 while en route from Montevideo to Santiago.

Of the 45 passengers aboard, 16 survived by feeding on dead family members and friends preserved in the snow.

"At about this time we were falling in the Andes. Today we're here to win a game," Pedro Algorta, 61, a survivor of the crash, said as he prepared to walk on to the playing field surrounded by the jagged mountains that trapped the group.

"I think the greatest sadness I felt in my life was when I had to eat a dead body," said Roberto Canessa, 59, who was a teenage medical student at the time of the crash.

"I would ask myself, is it worth doing this? And it was because it was in order to live and preserve life, which is exactly what I would have liked for myself if it had been my body that lay on the floor," he said.

Exasperated by more than two months in the frigid mountain range, Mr Canessa and Fernando Parrado left the crash site to seek help. After 10 days of trekking, they spotted a livestock herder in the foothills of the Chilean Andes who rode his horse to the nearest town to alert rescuers.

"I came back to life after having died. It's something that very few people experience," said Mr Parrado, who has been a TV host, motivational speaker and racing driver.

Press Association

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