Survivor of 1972 plane crash who resorted to cannibalism to survive in Andes Mountains speaks out

Passengers on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which crashed into the Andes in October 1972 and whose survivors took desperate measures to be rescued 72 days later, have recalled their harrowing experience for a new film based on the tragedy. .

The Netflix movie “Society of the Snow,” set to be released on January 4, depicts the fate of a plane that fails to deliver the Uruguay Old Christian Club rugby team to a scheduled match in Chile. There is.

Instead, the plane crashed into a remote mountain in western Argentina, ripping off both wings and cutting the plane in two, killing three crew members and nine passengers on impact.

Of the 33 passengers who survived the initial crash, survivors Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa were rescued after hiking through treacherous conditions with makeshift equipment for 10 days to find help, Britannica said. Only 16 people were.

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Roberto Canessa (right) is pictured with actor Enzo Vogričić, who plays Canessa in the upcoming Netflix film Society of the Snow. The adaptation, which will air on January 4, details the 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 and the extraordinary lengths the passengers went to survive in the Andes Mountains. (Netflix)

This amazing story of resilience has been relived many times, including in the 1993 film Alive. However, this film takes the re-enactment a step further and takes viewers to the actual site of the infamous crash.

“Today we were filming at 12,000 feet in the exact same place and at the same time the plane crashed,” said JA Bayona, director of Society of the Snow. Ta.

The film was shot in Montevideo, where the rugby team and other passengers boarded the doomed plane, in the Sierra Nevada of Andalusia, and in various locations in Chile and Argentina, where the real-life events took place. According to Netflix.

According to People magazine, Canessa, now a 70-year-old pediatric cardiologist, told the outlet that watching the latest movie was not easy.

“I was immersed in that place again. I went back to the aircraft,” he said on the Nov. 30 “Today” segment.

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set of "snow party"

The photo is from the set of Netflix's “Society of the Snow.” Director JA Bayona said the filmmakers reportedly used photos taken by passengers with cameras found after the accident to inform the movie. (Netflix)

According to Canessa's biography, the plane's passengers built a crude shelter in the plane's fuselage, crammed into a space approximately 8 feet by 9 feet, and removed broken seats that were used to block off the open end of the plane. I had to survive: How a plane crash in the Andes inspired my mission to save lives. ”

Five passengers died from their injuries on the first night on a snowy mountain peak in one of the harshest environments on earth.

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The survivors were left with very little food: eight chocolate bars, a can of mussels, three small jars of jam, a can of almonds, a few dates, dried plums, candy, and a few bottles of wine. Ta. According to Parrado's own biography, he spent three days eating one chocolate-covered peanut.

With no natural vegetation or game to be found, food stocks rapidly dwindled, despite strict rationing for the 28 survivors for the first few weeks.

Netflix "snow party" Production photo

Only 16 of the original 45 passengers survived for 72 days before being rescued from a mountaintop in western Argentina. A survivor of the first spaceship, he built a crude 8-foot-by-9-foot shelter from the destroyed plane, recreated in his Netflix-produced photo above. (Netflix)

According to “Alive: The Story of an Andean Survivor,” the survivors learned that rescue efforts were called off within the first week of entering the mountain after they managed to activate a small transistor radio that was on board the plane. He said he knew.

As detailed in Canessa's autobiography and recreated in the upcoming film, at that point the remaining group realized that if they died in the harsh environment, the other group could consume their bodies to stay alive. I agreed that it could be done.

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Canessa, a 19-year-old medical student during the ordeal, was asked in an interview with Today about the moment she made the unthinkable decision to “eat the person she loved.”

“I thought that if I were to die, I would be proud that my body would be used for someone else,” Canessa said.

In his autobiography, Canessa describes cutting the flesh from the corpse “during a lot of pain and soul searching.”

“We put thin pieces of frozen meat on a metal plate,” he recalled. “Each of us consumed our work only when we could bear it.”

Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa

Nando Parrado (left) and Roberto Canessa (right) attend a press conference two years after being rescued from the top of a glacier in Argentina. (Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Initially, the mutinous passengers could only endure eating the skin, muscle, and fat of their fallen comrades. When the meat supply dwindled, they began harvesting organs from cold-preserved corpses, according to Parrado's autobiography, “The Andean Miracle: 72 Days in the Mountains and the Long Journey Home.''

All the passengers were Roman Catholics, some fearing eternal damnation. According to France 24, Pope John Paul II and the Uruguayan Catholic Church later pardoned the survivors of their wrongdoings.

Seventeen days after the crash, an avalanche struck the plane's fuselage, killing eight more passengers. The survivors were trapped with the bodies in a 3-foot by 3-foot space for three days.

According to Canessa's book, they were eventually forced to eat their newly dead comrades raw.

Three days later, the survivors dug out of the snow-covered prison, only to be hit by a brutal snowstorm. The next day, the passengers decide to send Canessa and Parrado to seek help.

In the end, the men climbed over 4,000 feet over three days without any proper climbing equipment, wearing layers of clothing and using sleeping bags made from parts of destroyed planes at night. . They chose a walking direction from a high vantage point and began a long journey to find help.

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“We may be walking towards death, but I would rather walk to death than wait for it to come,” Parrado told Canessa at the summit, reported Outside. Ta.

“Nand, you and I are friends,” Canessa replied. “We've been through a lot. Come on, let's die together.”

Ten days later, they encountered a group of Chilean shepherds who had come to ask for help. Since the accident, Canessa has lost 97 pounds, about half of her body weight, according to Sky News.

According to Today, actor Enzo Vogrincic lost 50 pounds to play Canessa in the new Netflix movie, and in the days leading up to filming, he ate only a can of tuna and an orange every day. The media said film crews filmed the crash site during preparations to better understand why the passengers made the decisions they did.

The Chilean Air Force, led by Parrado, finally arrived at the crash site with three helicopters. Due to the harsh conditions, the bodies of the dead were left on the top of the glacier. They were eventually buried in a mass grave on the site, which is still visited by mountaineers today.

Laura Slacco and Roberto Canessa

At the premiere screening of Society of the Snow at the 80th Venice International Film Festival in September, Canessa was pictured with his wife Laura Slacco, with whom he was dating at the time of the 1972 accident. It is photographed in (Andreas Lenz/Getty Images)

Initially, the survivors kept the details of the 72 days they spent on the glacier secret. But after photos of the Andean rescue team's half-eaten leg were circulated and published on the front pages of two Chilean newspapers, news outlets around the world began speculating about how the Andean rescue team survived.

According to National Geographic, the survivors held a press conference to explain the group's agreement to sacrifice bodies and compare their actions to those of Jesus at the Last Supper.


After a whirlwind of interviews and media attention, Canessa earned a medical degree from Uruguay's University of the Republic and married his childhood girlfriend, who he was dating at the time of the accident, El Pais reported.

Named an honorary fellow by the American College of Cardiology in 2019, he led efforts to develop ventilators for intensive care units during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lessons he learned on that glacier about “how to overcome life's challenges and believe in yourself” will serve him well for the rest of his days, he told “Today.”



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