‘If I die you can take my body’: Survivors of 1972 Andes plane crash reveal the shocking tale of their struggle for life

9 January 2024, 12:47 | Updated: 9 January 2024, 13:01

A new documentary will tell the story of the survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash.
A new documentary will tell the story of the survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash. Picture: Netflix/Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash have revealed the harrowing story of how they survived one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable.

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Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, was bound for Santiago, Chile with 45 passengers on board when it lost its wings after hitting a mountain ridge in the Andes.

Twelve people were killed in the initial crash, while a further 17 went on to die in the following 72 days they were stranded.

The passengers were forced to endure the extreme conditions of the Andes for 72 days, including multiple avalanches, and by the end, only 16 survived.

Now the remaining survivors have spoken out in a tell-all documentary from Channel 5, Andes Plane Crash: Terror at 30,000 feet, set to drop on Tuesday evening.

The story of the survivors shook the world at the time - not just because they managed to survive, but the methods they were forced to use in order to do so.

Coche Inciarte, who died last July aged 75, tells the documentary makers of the shocking decisions the group had to make to survive.

He speaks of how the group made a ‘pact’ to eat each other if they died.

“We make a pact between us. If I die you can take my body. If I die you can do the same. And that made me decide to eat,” he says in the programme.

“At last they accepted the idea and we could start eating the bodies.”

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Parrado (left photo) after being rescued. Survivor Carlos Páez Rodríguez (right photo) with his father after being rescued.
Parrado (left photo) after being rescued. Survivor Carlos Páez Rodríguez (right photo) with his father after being rescued. Picture: Getty
The Netflix film brought the story to life, filming some scenes actually in the Andes.
The Netflix film brought the story to life, filming some scenes actually in the Andes. . Picture: Netflix

Passengers on board the aircraft included 19 members of Uruguay's Old Christian rugby team, the remaining 26 were friends, family and supporters.

They had been travelling to a rugby match against the Old Boys team in Santiago but the plane crashed after it started its descent too early.

The only supplies they had on board were: eight chocolate bars, a tin of mussels, a few dates, a tin of almonds, three tiny jars of jam, dried plums, sweets and several bottles of wine.

Eduardo Strauch, another survivor featured in the programme, reveals how his cousins, Fito And Daniel, told him that he needed to eat the flesh of his dead friends otherwise he would “get very weak”.

“We started eating very small pieces and starting feeling a little bit better with the protein.”

Survivor Gustavo Zerbino, left, and writer of Society of the Snow Pablo Vierci.
Survivor Gustavo Zerbino, left, and writer of Society of the Snow Pablo Vierci. Picture: Alamy

Fernando Parrado, one of the passengers who hiked through the Andes for 10 days in search of help, said of eating each other’s bodies: “I can assure you that having been there with us on that situation you would have arrived at the same conclusion at the same moment and you would have done exactly the same thing.”

Meanwhile, Roberto Canessa spoke of the torment it caused, as he said he felt like he “would be stealing their souls”.

“We wondered whether we were going mad even to contemplate such a thing. Had we turned into brute savages?” he said.

The surviving members of the group were finally saved after 72 days when Parrado and Canessa came across a group of Chilean shepherds. The rest of the group was then later found by the Chilean Air Force.

It comes after Netflix brought the shocking story to life with the release of Society of the Snow last week - where some scenes were actually filmed in the Andes.

The film is an adaptation of Pablo Vierci’s 2009 book.

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