Four children survive 40 days in the Amazon jungle after their mother dies of injuries.
The injured mother of four Huitoto indigenous children who survived a May 1 plane crash in Colombia told her children to “get out of here” before she died four days after the crash.
The child’s father, Manuel Miller Roanoke, said his 13-year-old daughter told him that the critically injured Magdalena Mukutui had died in the woods with her children by her side.
“Before he died, their mother told them something like, ‘You guys get out of here. You guys are going to see a man like your father, and he’s going to show you the same kind of great love that I showed you,'” outside a hospital in Bogota on Sunday. Roanoke told the media.
Engine trouble after takeoff
The children – aged 12, nine, five and one – were traveling with their mother in a Cessna 206, a single-engine light aircraft.
The pilot reported engine trouble minutes after takeoff from an area deep in the Amazon known as Aracuara.
The plane was supposed to travel 350 kilometers (220 mi) to San Jose del Guaviare.
The bodies of the pilot, the baby’s mother and another adult were found at the crash site, where the plane came to rest almost vertically in a tree.
‘My mother is dead’
The children were missing in the Amazon for 40 days before they were rescued and brought out of the jungle on Friday.
“I’m hungry” and “my mother is dead” were the first words uttered by the children, members of the rescue team said in a televised interview on Sunday.
Members of the group who found the survivors, themselves indigenous, described the first moments they met the children.
“The older girl, Leslie, with the little one in her arms, ran towards me,” said Nicolas Ordonez Gomes, one of the search and rescue team.
“Leslie said: ‘I’m hungry,'” he said. “One of the two boys was lying down. He got up and told me, ‘My mother is dead.’
A video released on Sunday shows the children, soon after being found, looking depressed from their time in the wilderness.
The youngest two children spent their birthdays in the woods with Leslie guiding them through the ordeal.
Indigenous knowledge systems are important in protecting children
It was part of the local knowledge of the children and indigenous adults involved in the search with Colombian soldiers that survivors were found alive despite the threat of jaguars and snakes and constant rain that could prevent them from hearing the calls of search parties.
The area is home to armed drug smugglers.
Luis Acosta of Colombia’s National Indigenous Organization said the children ate seeds, fruits, roots and plants identified as edible from their upbringing in the Amazon region.
“Children’s survival is a sign of the knowledge and relationship with the natural environment that is taught from the womb,” Acosta said.
General Pedro Sánchez, who led the search operation, credited the indigenous people involved in the rescue effort for finding the children.
He referred to this success as a “meeting of indigenous and military knowledge” that demonstrated “a different path towards a new Colombia”.
Army chief Helder Giraldo said rescuers had traveled more than 2,600 kilometers (1,650 miles) to locate the children.
“Something that seemed impossible was achieved,” Giraldo said on Twitter.