Imagine you and some of your best buddies
are traveling by plane to what you think will
be a weekend to remember.
Suddenly you experience some bad turbulence,
but it’s nothing you haven’t felt before.
Then it gets worse.
The plane drops through the sky, luggage falls
You grab hold of the seat arm; your knuckles
whiten as you do so.
The next thing you know you are freezing cold,
still fastened to your chair, in a part of
the plane that broke off.
You crash into the earth, but miraculously,
you’re still alive.
You don’t know it yet, but you have landed
in one of the most unforgiving environments
known to man.
There is nothing but mountains around you,
no vegetation, no animals, nothing.
You are at least alive, but soon you’ll
It won’t be long now until your friend tells
you, “I’m going to eat the pilot.”
As unbelievable as this sounds, it’s exactly
This is the survivor’s story that eclipses
It’s a tale of heroism and sadness, a brutal
story, and one that we just can’t imagine
being part of.
Let us start from the beginning.
It’s October 12, 1972, a Thursday.
Friends who play on the same rugby team from
Montevideo, Uruguay, are on their way to a
match in Chile.
There are 45 of them on board the plane.
Not only the young, strong and fit players,
but some of the team’s family members as
well as some supporters and five crew members.
It’s expensive to fly commercially to Chile,
so they opted for the cheapest option which
in this case was chartering an air force plane.
What they don’t know is that this American-made
Fairchild FH-227D has the nickname the “lead-sled,”
owing to its high weight and relatively weak
They’ll also soon find out why it has such
an atrocious safety record.
All they know now is it’s the cheapest way
to fly over the Andes mountain range to play
what will be a fun game of rugby in Santiago.
That first part of the trip is cut short due
to a terrible storm over the Andes and they
are forced to stop over in Mendoza, Argentina.
There is a direct route to get to Santiago
from there, but the plane can’t fly the
25,000 to 26,000 feet (7,600 to 7,900 meters)
required to get over the mountains.
Instead, they’ll take a route that looks
like a U-turn.
This route will skip the highest peaks and
instead find a way around them.
It’s now Friday 13th and they set off again.
The atmosphere is fun.
The rugby ball is being thrown around the
plane, it’s all laughter and games.
One of the players, Nando Parrado gives his
window seat up for his friend so his buddy
can get a better look at the mountains.
Nando has no idea that this small gesture
will end up saving his life.
Not long after, the turbulence starts.
At first no one takes it seriously, but then
someone points out that the mountains seem
to be very close to the plane, like right
What they don’t know is the pilot and co-pilot
have made a terrible mistake.
They told air traffic controllers that they
would reach the airport in a minute.
They couldn’t see much due to the clouds,
and they were wrong about that minute, they
were actually 11 minutes away.
They were still in mountains and hadn’t
reached the safe spot where they could turn
right towards the airport.
They descended anyway, and were hit by more
turbulence as they were right in the middle
of mountains where the winds are chaotic.
The plane was thrown around, the clouds parted,
and the pilots saw a black ridge directly
ahead of them.
The plane attempted to pull up and accelerate,
and now the passengers knew they were in trouble.
The aircraft hit the ridge, tearing off the
rear of the plane and sending the plane hurtling
They are still about 13,800 feet (4,200 meters)
above sea level when they likely collided
with another mountain causing the wings to
come off and leaving just the front part of
Those at the back of the plane have been thrown
out into the mountain range.
Some are alive in the plane, but there is
no time to think.
Suddenly what’s left of the plane hits a
The fact that even this much of the plane
survived is incredible.
But what’s even more incredible is what
The plane begins sliding down the mountain
like a sled but somehow doesn’t collide
with any rocky outcrops or boulders, sliding
down and down the mountain until finally it
comes to a stop at 11,710 feet (3,570 meters)
above sea level.
Seats have been uprooted and bodies have been
bashed against the front of the pilot’s
People are strewn everywhere but many of the
passengers have somehow survived.
Some are screaming, their limbs twisted, parts
of the plane stuck into them.
But they are surrounded by glaciers, so remote
they don’t even have a name.
No one goes there and there’s little hope
of being found.
It is freezing cold and it’s hard to breathe
because the air is so thin at this altitude.
Of the survivors, those that are least injured
begin to help the less fortunate.
Some have broken bones, some are almost dead
from internal injuries, Nando is in a coma
and will remain in one for three days.
Of the 45 passengers aboard the plane, 12
of them died immediately when the plane hit
the mountain or fell out of the back of the
Some bodies are found still strapped to their
chairs, covered in snow, and not far from
the crash site.
The first night is brutally cold, with temperatures
getting as low as -22 degrees fahrenheit (-30
The survivors huddle into the fuselage and
try and block up the holes with suitcases.
They all mistakenly think that a rescue operation
will find them and this will be their only
night on the mountain.
They could not be more wrong.
What they don’t realize is that the planes
white coloring means that it cannot be seen
from the air.
Five more people die from their injuries on
that first night.
Nando in his coma doesn’t know that his
mother is dead and his sister is dying.
Both were only on the flight because Nando
was told he could use the empty seats for
Inviting them would turn out to be the biggest
regret of his life.
The next day the injured are attended to,
some still screaming because their legs and
arms have been broken in many places.
The pilot is dead.
The co-pilot, who made that terrible mistake,
is found crushed under debris but alive.
He tells the survivors that he has a handgun
and asks them to shoot him and put an end
to his pain.
They don’t kill him, but he dies soon after.
But now they need food.
At high altitudes in such cold temperatures,
the body burns calories extremely fast in
an attempt to stay warm.
All of the luggage is searched, and while
there is an endless stock of cigarettes and
lots booze, there isn’t much food.
In total, there are eight chocolate bars,
a tin of mussels, three jars of jam, a tin
of almonds, some candy and a few bottles of
The survivors immediately make a rationing
It’s next to nothing for so many people
and they have no idea how long it needs to
They have water at the very least,, being
able to melt it and funnel it into empty wine
Days pass, and more die.
On the tenth day, Nando who is now conscious,
holds his sister as she dies in his arms.
He would later say that he went to sleep and
“woke up in hell.”
And yet it will get worse, because they then
heard on a transistor radio they had found
in the wreckage that the search for them was
being called off.
They knew they were alone, cold and starving.
It was at this point of extreme desperation
that Nando told a friend, “I am going to
eat the pilot.”
In fact, a few of the survivors had been rolling
this same idea over in their minds.
One of them later told the media, “Our common
goal was to survive — but what we lacked
We had long since run out of the meagre pickings
we’d found on the plane, and there was no
vegetation or animal life to be found.
After just a few days, we were feeling the
sensation of our own bodies consuming themselves
just to remain alive.”
They didn’t see it as cannibalism.
If they were to survive and see their families
again, it was what they had to do.
There was no choice, eat your buddies, or
There were 27 people still alive at this point
which is a lot of mouths to feed.
They started with the pilots, stripping the
bodies of all the possible meat including
the organs as their starving brains told them,
“eat more, eat everything, don’t waste
On day 17 disaster struck again.
In the middle of the night they heard a noise,
what one of them later described as sounding
like wild horses running at them.
It was an avalanche.
Snow burst through the hole in the plane and
the entire fuselage was packed tight.
Those alive scrambled to dig for air and find
Eight more died, and the rest were in the
dark, buried in snow, with little air to breathe,
for three days.
In time the snow would melt and the fuselage
would again be sitting on top of the snow.
The days passed and they survived by eating
more of the dead.
They smoked cigarettes and went out on little
But after just a few hundred meters they’d
be too tired.
The snow was too deep and the air too thin
for their weakened state.
They were also affected by snow blindness,
essentially a sunburning of the eye that comes
from the sun reflecting off of the snow.
To fight back against their surroundings,
they made makeshift snowshoes and sunglasses
so they could stray farther.
Even then, they were surrounded on all sides
by dangerous crevasses.
One of the survivors would later say, “We
felt like insects trapped in the hugest forces
They were right, there’s almost no place
on Earth where it would be harder for humans
On one sojourn, they found the other part
of the fuselage.
Inside were batteries for the plane radio
as well as some chocolate, a little candy
and comic books.
They stayed there all night reading the comics
by the light of a fire they had built.
For a while they had hope that they could
use the batteries, but it soon became apparent
that hooking up a radio with lots of wires
was not something any of them possessed the
knowhow to do.
As Nando later said, “We were very depressed.”
For him, the only option now was to walk right
out of the mountains.
They were aware that Chile was west and remembered
that the pilot has said they weren’t far
away from their destination.
But they had no way of knowing that they were
still 37 miles (59km) from the nearest road.
But that wouldn’t be an easy hike.
It was 37 miles of glaciers and rough terrain,
and they were far from experienced outdoorsman.
But Nando knew they had to walk over the mountain
range to Chile, it was their only option.
They decided they would stock up on human
meat and only the strongest would go, Nando,
and two others named Roberto Canessa and Antonio
On day 61 when the men set off, only 16 survivors
Some were sick, and everyone was malnourished
and beaten by the elements.
Before they left a man named Carlitos Páez
made them a sleeping bag with parts of the
aircraft insulation sewn together with copper
Had they not have had that they would have
surely frozen to death on their hike to freedom.
It took them three days to climb the first
Nando expected to see green valleys from the
top of that mountain, but what he saw instead
were more mountain ranges.
Vizintin turned back and gave his food to
Nando and Canessa both said, “We’ll die,
but we’ll die trying.”
They didn’t die.
They walked for days, almost passing out from
exhaustion, but on day eight of their walk
they found a river, they saw green poking
through the melting snow, and most importantly,
they saw a person on the other side of the
river, though they were unable to cross to
the other side to meet him.
They slept there that night and the next morning
the man came back.
He had brought with him a piece of paper and
He tied them to a rock and threw it across
Nando wrote on the paper: We are survivors
of the plane crash.
We have no food.
We cannot walk anymore.
There are more of us in the mountain.
Where are we?” and threw it back.
The man went to find help, himself being many
hours by horseback from civilization.
On day 10 Nando and Canessa were finally picked
up by the army.
Their skinny bodies carried out on the back
Nando said at that point he was “ready to
embrace life again.”
Soon helicopters would take Nando to find
his friends, with the pilots asking how they
could have possibly walked over such terrain
It was amazing, their journey was tracked
by professionals years later and even with
the latest equipment they found it hard and
very, very dangerous.
On day 71 the first of the team was picked
up and on day 72 the rest were taken.
All were suffering from various ailments but
all of those who had still been alive eventually
recovered, and in fact only one of them is
not alive today.
Once the newspapers had stopped cheering for
the survivors many began to ask just how they
had survived so long without food.
It was impossible, literally impossible.
Then a photograph taken by the rescuers came
to light of a human carcass whose bones had
The survivors admitted what they had done,
and many in the public turned on them, calling
them cannibal savages.
Nando later said that eating human flesh wasn’t
an easy decision, it was a last resort.
He said, “We tried to eat strips of leather
torn from pieces of luggage, though we knew
that the chemicals they'd been treated with
would do us more harm than good.
We ripped open seat cushions hoping to find
straw, but found only inedible upholstery
It was either feast on dead friends or die,
and one survivor that was reluctant to turn
to cannibalism actually did die.
But 16 of the survivors decided that they
would do whatever it would take to stay alive,
and because of it, they made it down off the
With that in mind, would you have done the
Tell us in the comments.
Also, be sure to check out our other video
Cannibal Island: The Real Battle Royale.
Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share and subscribe.
See you next time.
This is one of the craziest survival stories of all time. A plane crashed in the Andes and the survivors were stranded for a total of 72 days! But how did they survive the frozen wild for that long? The real reason will shock you!
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