Battle Erupts Over Guardianship of Child Survivors of Amazon Jungle Plane Crash

by Lucas Garcia
Custody Battle

A fight over guardianship is raging among relatives of four Indigenous youngsters who remarkably endured a plane accident and forty grueling days alone in the Amazon rainforest. This astonishing display of youthful tenacity has garnered attention worldwide.

Ranging in age from 1 to 13, the siblings were still in the hospital on Monday, with a few more days of stay anticipated. The Colombian child protection agency is utilizing this time to interview family members to decide who is best suited to look after them following their mother’s tragic death in the May 1 crash.

– Survival on cassava flour and fruit: the tale of 4 children surviving 40 days after a plane crash in Colombia’s jungle
– Oldest sibling survivor of Colombian plane crash recounts their mother’s final days

Astrid Cáceres, the Director of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, shared with BLU radio that a social worker had been appointed to the children as requested by their maternal grandparents. They are locked in a custody battle with the father of the youngest two.

“We aim to understand, investigate, and get a deeper insight into the situation,” stated Cáceres. She did not dismiss the possibility of the children and their late mother being victims of domestic abuse.

“The children’s health, both physical and emotional, is of paramount importance at this time,” she added.

Narciso Mucutuy, the children’s grandfather, accused Manuel Ranoque of physically abusing his daughter, Magdalena Mucuty, on Sunday. He claimed that the children would flee into the forest whenever violent arguments erupted.

Ranoque admitted to reporters about domestic issues but insisted they were private family affairs, not “worldly gossip.” When asked about assaulting his wife, Ranoque conceded to “occasionally” verbally abusing her, and “rarely” physically. “Our disagreements were more verbal,” he said.

Ranoque was barred from visiting his two eldest children at the hospital, a decision Cáceres declined to explain.

On May 1, the children and their mother were aboard a single-engine Cessna propeller plane traveling from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare when the aircraft experienced an engine failure and soon disappeared from the radar. An immediate search was initiated for the seven passengers onboard.

The children, part of the Huitoto Indigenous group, survived for over a month in the jungle, subsisting on cassava flour, seeds, and wild fruits.

After being rescued last Friday, they were airlifted to the capital, Bogota, and subsequently to a military hospital. They received psychological support and other assistance, all while maintaining cultural sensitivity, including spiritual ceremonies and familiar food.

While recuperating, the children recounted terrifying details of their ordeal. The eldest, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, said their mother survived for about four days post-crash before she passed away.

Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Community-Engaged Medicine at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, emphasized the importance of a secure environment for the children to openly discuss their experiences and feelings, which will be crucial for their recovery. He noted that children’s ability to process trauma varies by age.

A fortnight after the crash, the plane wreckage was discovered in a dense rainforest area. The three adult bodies were recovered, but there were no signs of the children, raising hopes that they might be alive.

Rescuers dropped food boxes from helicopters and lit up the night using flares to aid the search teams. Speakers were used to broadcast a message recorded by the children’s grandmother instructing them to stay put.

Finally, last Friday, the children were found roughly 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the crash site in a small clearing. Gen. Pedro Sanchez, who headed the search effort, noted that they had missed the children on a few occasions despite being very close to the site.

Both relatives and officials applauded Lesly for leading her younger siblings during the 40-day ordeal in the snake, poisonous frog, and mosquito-infested jungle. The youngest sibling celebrated their first birthday while lost.

Sege remarked, “It’s inconceivable to imagine most teenagers in such a predicament, but she evidently managed to keep her composure and did what was necessary.” He emphasized the importance of remembering not only the tragedy but also the children’s resilience in keeping the baby alive.

This report was provided by Garcia Cano from Mexico City.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Custody Battle

How many children survived the plane crash in the Amazon rainforest?

Four Indigenous children, ranging in age from 1 to 13, survived the plane crash and managed to live alone in the Amazon rainforest for 40 days.

Who is vying for custody of the surviving children?

The custody of the surviving children is being contested between their maternal grandparents and the father of the two youngest children.

What is the role of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare in this case?

The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, led by Astrid Cáceres, has assigned a caseworker to the children to investigate the situation and determine who is best suited to look after them.

How did the children manage to survive for 40 days in the Amazon rainforest?

Being part of the Huitoto Indigenous group, the children were familiar with the rainforest and were able to survive by eating cassava flour, seeds, and wild fruits they found in the jungle.

Where are the children now and what kind of support are they receiving?

The children were rescued and airlifted to a military hospital in Bogota, where they are receiving psychological services and other forms of assistance, while maintaining cultural sensitivity. They are expected to remain hospitalized for several more days.

How did the search and rescue operation for the children proceed?

The search operation included dropping boxes of food into the jungle from helicopters, firing off flares at night to illuminate the ground, and using speakers to broadcast a message recorded by the children’s grandmother. They were finally found in a small clearing about 5 kilometers from the crash site.

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Liam_NatureLover June 13, 2023 - 6:19 am

those kids kno how to survive in nature better than most adults i know! Shows how important it is to know the world around u, not just the tech stuff.

Paul_Adventurer June 13, 2023 - 8:47 am

surviving a crash and 40 days in the amazon! sounds like something out of a movie. it’s not easy and these kids did it. i hope they get the care and love they need now.

Mike_Traveller June 13, 2023 - 12:35 pm

Man, these kids are real survivors…got respect for them. hats off to the eldest for keeping her siblings alive…

Jenny_JusticeSeeker June 13, 2023 - 8:48 pm

What’s with the dad not being able to see his kids?? sounds fishy…hope the child welfare folks find the truth. kids deserve a safe n loving home, thats all.

ConcernedMom101 June 13, 2023 - 8:58 pm

It’s just heartbreaking to think what these poor babies must have been thru. it’s sad they lost their mom but they’re fighters, they’ll get through this. praying for them


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