Four missing children 'still alive' one month after Amazon plane crash

Authorities say there are clear indications that the children aged 13, 9, 4, and 11-months survived the crash that killed three adults onboard.

There is fresh hope that four children who disappeared after a plane crashed in the Colombia Amazon are “100% still alive” and are surviving in the jungle, officials have said.

Authorities say there are clear indications that the children, aged 13, 9, 4, and 11-months, survived the crash that killed three adults onboard a month ago.

Around two weeks after the crash, the remains of the aircraft were found along with the bodies of the pilot and two other adults traveling aboard – thought to be the children’s parents.

The discovery in recent days of small footprints in a southern jungle-covered part of Colombia has rekindled hope of finding the youngsters alive.

More than 100 members of Colombia’s special forces and more than 70 indigenous people from the area have joined the search through the remote jungle terrain.

Authorities said some of the soldiers partaking in the search mission have walked nearly 1,000 miles (nearly 1,500 kilometers), which is almost the distance from Lisbon to Paris, in an attempt to locate the children.

On Tuesday, searchers found footprints, believed to be of the oldest child, around 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) northwest of where the plane crashed on May 1.

General Pedro Sánchez, commander of the Joint Command of Special Operations, told reporters: “We have a 100% expectation of finding them alive.

“We found elements that are very complex to find in the jungle. For example, the lid of a baby bottle.

“If we’ve found that, why don’t we find the rest? Because the children are on the move.”

Search leader General Pedro Sanchez speaks to an Indigenous search team. / Credit: AP

However, search teams are facing a difficult task with rescuers having to deal with the unpredictable conditions and up to 16 hours a day of rain.

The soldiers also risk getting lost in the dense jungle, which is home to wild animals such as jaguars, ocelots, poisonous snakes, and mosquitos that carry diseases.

“It’s not like finding a needle in a haystack, it’s like finding a tiny flea in a huge rug that moves in unpredictable directions,” Mr Sánchez said.

The jungle areas that have been searched have been marked off with tape and whistles have been left in case the children come across those areas and want to raise the alarm.

The search teams also have been blasting the area with recordings of the voice of the children’s grandmother, though heavy rains have been drowning out the sound.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro has said finding the children is a priority, and authorities have said no deadline has been set for wrapping up the search.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro / Credit: AP

The flight had been going north from the town of Araracuara in southern Colombia, when it crashed about 110 miles (175 kilometres) from San Jose Del Guaviare.

Investigators’ photos of the crash scene show the raised tail of a small plane painted in still-crisp blue and white, its nose and front smashed into the jungle terrain.

Their report says the plane likely first hit the trees of the dense forest, tearing the engine and propeller off, followed by a vertical drop to the forest floor.

Officials believe that the rear seats, where the older children were sitting, were less affected by the impact of the crash, offering a potential explanation for their survival.

The impact against the trees caused the separation of the engine and propeller from the aircraft structure, according to the report. / Credit: Dirección Técnica de Investigación de Accidentes

Two of three seats occupied by the children remained in place and upright despite the crash, according to a report, while one child’s seat came loose from the plane structure.

The children “were not located in the area of the accident, and there were no signs that they had been injured, at least not seriously,” the report said.

It is also believed that the infant may have been held in their mother’s arms, protecting them from the impact.

Among the items that have been found over the past few weeks are: a bottle, some towels, used nappies, some scissors, and footprints in places relatively close to the place where the accident occurred.

Officials have said it is not yet possible to establish whether the children abandoned those belongings intentionally to leave clues to those who are looking for them.

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