What is the story of Flight 571?

Hello, friends What is the story of Flight 571? ! 12th October, 1972 A small chartered aircraft took off from Uruguay, South America. This aircraft was going to Santiago, the capital of Chile. Carrying some rugby players, tall and broad. There were 45 passengers in total, some of the players’ family and friends had tagged along. This flight was not going to be long. Usually, it takes only 3 hours to go from Uruguay to Santiago. But on the way, you come across the huge Andes Mountains. The Andes Mountain Range in South America is the world’s longest mountain range. Other than the Himalayan mountains, the highest mountains are found here.

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!

What is the story of Flight 571?

What is the story of Flight 571?
What is the story of Flight 571?

These beautiful mountains become devastating for the passengers in our story. That day, on 12th October, there was a storm in the mountains. because of which, the plane couldn’t keep flying. The pilots then decided to stop midway and try to fly again the next day. The plane landed in Mendoza, Argentina for the night. The next day, on October 13th, the plane took off again at 2:18 p.m. The pilots ensured that the weather had cleared up. So it was a smooth-sailing flight for the next hour. At 3:21 p.m., the pilots start descending the plane. The plane was quite close to Santiago but was still in the mountains. Since there are high mountains right next to the city. While descending, suddenly there was terrible turbulence. The plane started shaking horizontally. Around this time, clouds gathered around the plane. Nothing was visible except the clouds. Suddenly, the alarms in the plane went off, and the warning lights began to flash. No one could understand why.


The rugby players in the passenger seats weren’t scared. They didn’t take this turbulence seriously. Amid jokes, a passenger looked out of the window and saw the clouds clearing up. But then he noticed that they were perilously close to a mountain. As soon as the aircraft moved out of the clouds, the pilots realized that they were moving towards a huge rock. Immediately in a panic, they try to lift the plane up. The aircraft’s ground collision alarm was ringing loudly. Pilots put in maximum power into gaining altitude. To fly over the mountain safely. But unfortunately, it was too late. The rear of the aircraft collided with the mountain while going up. The entire rear portion of the plane separateed. The two rows of seats at the back literally, flew out of the plane. Three passengers flew away with it and disappeared. The plane kept flying upwards for a few more seconds but then suddenly, it started to fall down. After a few seconds, another collision happened. The left wing of the plane broke.

Some more passengers flew out of the plane and fell down. Now, only the front portion of the plane remained and it fell into a glacier. It slid down the glacier at a speed of 350 km/h and finally, it crashed after dropping 700 meters. Everything in the plane was destroyed. The passenger seats were torn apart from the base of the plane. The cockpit of the plane was completely crushed and the pilots were killed immediately. This aircraft lay broken on an unknown mountain in the Andes at a height of 3,570 meters. Surprisingly, out of the 45 people on board, 33 were still alive. They had somehow survived this crash. The problem was that many of them were injured and no one knew where they were stuck. It was later found that this plane was 80 km off from its planned route. And this painful story of survival had just begun, friends. Neither those people could have imagined at that time, nor you can imagine now, what happened to these survivors next. This is the heart-wrenching story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Let’s know about it in today’s video. “Plane crashed in Andes Mountains. 45 persons were aboard. Given up for dad.” “Survival fascinates people.” “All of the passengers were given up for dad.”

“It became known as the Miracle of the Andes.” Right after this crash, there were two survivors who weren’t seriously injured. First, 19-year-old Roberto Canessa and the other, 20-year-old Gustavo Zerbino. Since both of them were medical students, they immediately started checking who was alive and how to help the injured. They saw that many passengers had suffered severe injuries. One of them was 23-year-old Fernando Parrado who was in a coma due to a skull fracture. These two medical students tried their best to help the survivors. On the other hand, within an hour of the plane’s disappearance, the Chilean Air Search and Rescue Service received a notification. Four aircraft were deployed to search for the survivors. They tried to find the crash site from dusk till night, but unfortunately, they didn’t find anything. The rescue service officers concluded after hearing the radio transmissions that the aircraft must have crashed in a remote and inaccessible area.

The problem was that the aircraft was white in colour and it had crashed in a place where there was white snow and ice all around. It was very difficult to locate it in the snowy mountains. On the night of 13th October, the remaining passengers were very hopeful. They hoped that if they would somehow spent a night there and find a way to escape the cold then someone would find them the next day. Five injured passengers couldn’t survive that snowy night. The number of survivors fell from 33 to 28. These survivors used the remaining body of the plane as a shelter. They used luggage, seats, and snow to close the rear of the plane so that they could stay warm inside. The next day, on 14th October, 11 different aircraft from Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, were put into search operation. The search area they chose was correct. The location of the crash site was in that search area. But still, they were not able to find the crash site. Survivors tried to use lipstick to write SOS on the plane’s roof. They started writing SOS but soon realized that they didn’t have enough lipstick to write all the letters.

Then they tried to use suitcases to make a big cross in the snow so that search aircraft flying above could see them. But soon they realized that this was not working. That day, they saw not one, not two, but three aircraft flying over them. They screamed, waved their hands and tried their best to make the aircraft notice them, but they were unsuccessful. Another day passed in this attempt. The next day, 15th October, the survivors realized that they needed water to stay alive. A passenger, named Fito Strauch, found a way to get water. He used a metal sheet as a solar collector so that the sunrays could be concentrated to melt the snow. And he collected water droplets in empty wine bottles. Apart from this, many passengers used the seat cushions like snowshoes and the wool in the seat covers was used to protect them from the cold. The next day, on 16th October, three days after the crash, Fernando Parrado woke up from his coma. As soon as he regained consciousness, he saw that his mother passed away in the crash and his 19-year-old sister was severely injured. Parrado tried his best to keep his sister alive, he brought food and water for her. But as the days went by, 8 days after the crash, his sister succumbed to her injuries. Such accidents remind us how uncertain life is, and how unpredictable it is. We don’t know how long we will live.

That’s why it is said, Live every moment. Live every day, every moment in your life, because who knows, tomorrow may not come. But there’s also the question of how? In our daily lives, considering other tensions like work, how can one find time for things one likes? This is what I have explained in my Time Management course. In this course, I have told you step-by-step techniques on how you can not only double your productivity but also double your happiness. The same tricks which I use in my life and because of which I can make so many videos while travelling around the world. If you haven’t joined this course yet, then do try it because the people who took this course found it to be life-changing. Some of the reviews can be seen on the screen and if you are interested in joining, then I would like to give a special discount for you in this video. The first 400 people who use the coupon code LOST40 will get 40% off on this course. The link is available in the description and pinned comment or you can scan this QR code to go to the link of this course. So, do join it because I really think that this course can change your life. Just remember one thing, the course is in English. Now, let’s get back to the topic. Most of the passengers were from coastal areas. Before this, they had never seen snow.

And now, suddenly, in the cold of -30° Celsius, at such a high altitude without proper food and water, they were somehow surviving. In these bad conditions, there was another problem. Snow blindness. When the ultraviolet rays of the sun reflect on the snow and ice in the mountains, it can damage your eyes. This is called snow blindness. These survivors had only 3 pairs of sunglasses. On 21st October, 8 days after the crash, search and rescue teams gave up. They believed that since they could not find any signs of survivors in those 8 days, there was no point in continuing the search operation. There was little chance that anyone could have survived after so many days. So, after 142 hours of search operation, this search operation was officially stopped. Meanwhile, the survivors found a transistor radio among the seats of the aircraft. A survivor rugby player, Roy Harley, was also an electronics enthusiast. So he tried to switch on the radio. He made a long antennae by improvising. And because of his efforts, finally, the radio started working. This radio could communicate one way only. The survivors could hear things but could not send any messages. They turned on the radio 11 days after the crash and then they came to know that the search operation had been cancelled.

Their hearts were completely broken. Some people start crying after hearing this news. Some people clasped their hands and started praying to God. “Feeling that their world is alive and they consider you dead.” Fernando Parrado was the only one who did not react much after hearing this news. Because he was planning something else. By the 11th day, survivors were running out of food. They didn’t have much to begin with. There were only 8 chocolate bars, 1 tin of mussels, 3 small jars of jam, a jar of almonds. A box of peanuts, some dates, candies, dried plums and a few bottles of wine. A few days after the crash, they started rationing food. They ate very little each day. Parrado ate a chocolate-covered peanut for 3 days. Just one peanut. But rationing was not enough. Because the food was almost over. There were no trees or plants at an altitude of 3,800 meters, nor were there any animals that could be killed and eaten. By the 11th day, the food was completely gone and some people tried to eat some parts of the plane. They tried eating the cotton in the seats and the leather on the seats. But this made them more sick.

In such a situation, when there was no option other than starving to dath, these survivors did something that will shock you. To stay alive, they decided there was no option other than eating the dad bodies of their friends and family. It was not an easy decision to make. Because most of the people who were klled in this crash were friends, classmates, family members, or relatives. “We have to eat. and the only probable things were the dad bodies of the people that were in this plane.” Since Canessa came up with this idea, he was the first to try it. Some others tried to, but they couldn’t. They refused then. But 2 days later, with no other option, finally, even they chose to eat human meat. On 29th October, 16 days after the crash, this food source was also depleting rapidly for the survivors. They had no plan of action. No one knew what to do next. The situation could not have been worse. But then that night, they heard a loud grumble. It turned out to be an avalanche. Large amount of snow was descending so fast from the mountain top, that it filled the broken plane with snow.

Eight people were lost in the snow and suffocated. Only 19 survivors remained. “Ted, Roberto, you had it. You’re going to d!e. That’s it. A very nice sensation of heat between my legs because I was peeing on myself and saying that’s it.” These remaining 19 people were also trapped in a small space under the snow. Parrado used a metal pole to make a hole in the snow, to allow some ventilation. After working hard for two days, they dug a tunnel under the snow and with great difficulty, they managed to get to the surface. As soon as they got out, they saw a snowstorm was coming and it would be prudent to go back into the snow cave to survive. For the next three days, the remaining survivors, somehow managed to stay in the cramped space. 3 days later, they went back up to the surface and the weather was clear. After coming out, the survivors realized that no one was coming to save them. If they wanted to stay alive, they would need to put in the efforts themselves. There was no point in sitting at the crash site, waiting for help. They needed to try their best till the last breath. Canessa, Parrado, and Vizintin were among the strongest survivors. They decided together to give them more food and the warmest clothes and they would try to walk around looking for help. The first task was to estimate the location. Before the crash, the co-pilot had stated that their aircraft had passed through Curico. So they estimated that if they walked a few kilometres to the west they would definitely reach some countryside areas of Chile. But their estimation was extremely wrong. Actually, the co-pilot didn’t know where he was taking the plane. In reality, their crash site was 89 km east, in the middle of the Andes mountains. Still, unaware of this, they rested for a few days to build up their energy. On November 15, 33 days after the crash, these three people set out to find help. After travelling for hours towards the east, they found the rear piece of their aircraft. It was the part of the plane that had broken apart first. Inside it, they found many suitcases, boxes of chocolates, three meat patties, a bottle of rum, extra clothes, comic books, and some medicines. And along with this, they found the aircraft’s two-way radio system. A radio that can not only facilitate incoming communication, but can also send messages.

They decided to spend the night there. The next day of the expedition, they walk a little further east, but after discussing it, they believed that they should try to turn on the aircraft’s radio. They decided to get some batteries out of the main body of the aircraft and then try to start the radio. They would be able to send out an SOS call. They found 24 kg batteries in the tail section, but it was very heavy. They could not carry it back to the main body crash site. So they decided to try to turn it on right there. They went back and took the help of Roy Harley the one who had some knowledge of electronics but unfortunately, this plan didn’t work. The thing was that the aircraft’s electrical system worked with a 115V AC and their battery was a 24V DC. They had no means to connect them. They tried their best to start the radio for a few days but soon realized that there was no other way.

To survive, they now had to start walking Westwards. On 11th December, 59 days after the crash, an avalanche hit. Three more survivors were k!lled in it. “I was trapped completely by the storm, the avalanche, it was the most d*adly silence that you may imagine. I couldn’t move…” Only 16 remained. To climb the mountains in the west, they needed a way to sleep at night. How could they survive the cold nights of -30° Celsius? Among the survivors was an 18-year-old boy, Carlos Miguel Rodriguez. He remembered that his mother had taught him to sew with needles. He was carrying his needles and sewing kit with him. His idea was to stitch different pieces of clothing to make a big sleeping bag. “I had the idea that with the insulation, you can make a sleeping bag. But I not only had the idea, I made it myself.” They did this. The next day, December 12, two months had passed since the day this crash happened. These three brave men, Parrado, Canessa, and Vizintin, set out without any mountaineering gear to climb the glacier. “The only certain thing was to the West was Chile.” Going westward meant that they would have to climb the mountain first before going down. They still believed that they were only a few kilometres away. So they hoped that they would find help by walking for 2-3 days.

So they packed a 3-day supply of meat. “And you can imagine without any skill, without any training, you’re like a child! You are confronted with a snowstorm, you try to go straight up, you might be using your hands and your feet, you’re slipping and sliding. And with every step that you go up, you slide back half a step.” To protect himself against the cold, Parrado wore three pairs of jeans. He was also wearing 3 sweaters on top of his t-shirt, and 4 pairs of socks on his feet. He was also wearing a plastic shopping bag over the socks. The cold was so bad. They had no technical gear, no map, no compass, and no climbing experience. And at this height, the air gets quite thin, and one starts feeling the lack of oxygen. But despite that, they kept moving forward towards the mountain. The sleeping bag they had stitched was useful at night. During the day, they kept moving forward, taking slow steps. The three of them, in that one sleeping bag, slept as close to each other as possible. And as soon as the sun rose, they started walking. Gradually, they kept moving forward together. The second day, the third day, and on the morning of the fourth day, they realized that their estimation was grossly wrong. Ahead, they could see no end to their journey. Because they had little to no food, Vizintin decided to return to the crash site and only the other two would go ahead so that less food was needed.

On 15th December, Vizintin started going back which was easier because it was all downhill. He used an aircraft seat as a sleigh and within an hour he reached the crash site. It took them three days to climb this mountain but in just one hour, he was back at the crash site. Parrado and Canessa kept climbing the mountain. After three hours, they reached the peak of the mountain and saw that all around them, there was only mountains as far as they could see. There was nothing except the snowy mountains. “I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t even think because what we saw was horrible. Instead of green valleys, we saw mountains and snow-covered peaks 360° around us, to the horizon, all around us.” With great difficulty, Parrado tried to find something else to see. On the far western horizon, they saw two mountains peaks without snow. They assumed that they should keep travelling in that direction. They couldn’t give up. Parrado and Canessa keep hiking for many days. Finally, they reached a valley. A valley where they could see a river flowing.

In this situation, reaching the river was a great relief. Because while travelling downstream the river, it was easy to find a downhill path. They kept on walking and walking. And finally, after trekking for 9 days, on 20th December, they could find some presence of humans. They could see some cows in the fields. They were so tired by this point that they couldn’t walk farther. Right then, on the other side of the river, “Look, a man on a horse!” They saw 3 men on horses. Parrado tried to shout. But the river was so loud, that those people couldn’t hear him. But by chance, one of them spotted Parrado and Canessa. He looked at them and shouted back. “Tomorrow!” He said that he would be back the next day. The next day, the man comes back on horseback and this time brought some paper and pencils with him. He attached the paper and pencil to a stone with a thread and threw it to the other side of the river. For the first time, Parrado had the opportunity to send his message to the world. Parado wrote in Spanish on the paper, “I come from a plane that fell in the mountains.” That he was from Uruguay. And had been walking for 10 days. And that his injured friends were at the crash site. He wrote that they needed help urgently, but didn’t know how to get help. They didn’t have any food. They were weak. And they didn’t have it in them to walk anymore. He asked to be saved. He asked where they were. On the other hand, the person who received this message was a farmer from Chile, Sergio Catalan. He read this note and told him with gestures that he understood. After talking to his two friends, it turned out that they did remember vaguely. A few months ago, they had heard on the news that a plane crashed.

And when these friends realized this, they were shocked. They couldn’t believe that there were survivors of a 2-month-old plane crash. Sergio threw a piece of bread to the other side of the river and for the next 10 hours, on a horse, he rode towards west. They were still so far from any village or human settlement. Finally, when he reached the nearest city, the army command was informed about this and he contacted the army headquarters in Santiago. Meanwhile, the farmers brought Parrado and Canessa to Los Maitenes on horses. Where they finally get some rest. It was found that on sheer will, they had hiked 61 km on foot over the last 10 days. Canessa had lost half of his body weight. He weighed only 44 kgs then. As soon as other people got to know about their story, it became international news. This heart-wrenching story was truly unbelievable. The Chilean Air Force sends 3 helicopters to immediately rescue the survivors.

Army officers interviewed Parrado and Canessa to get information about the location. Parrado had brought the pilot’s flight chart with him and he had plotted the places where they were hiking. Army officers took him with them on the helicopter to locate the crash site. With Parrado’s help, the location of the remaining survivors was finally discovered by the army commanders. On 22nd December 1972, 70 days after the crash, two search and rescue helicopters finally reached the survivors to save their lives. In total, 16 survivors were rescued. They were in a terrible condition. Altitude sickness, dehydration, broken bones, malnutrition. But all of them recovered. This story is a lesson to the world about hope. If you have decided to do something and you have patience and humanity, then nothing is impossible.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top