Andes plane crash survives recall eating the flesh of dead friends 50 years after tragedy

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By stefan armitage

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Survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash have opened up about having to eat the flesh of their fallen friends in order to survive.

Fifty years ago, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was flying an amateur rugby team from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile. However, tragedy struck when the plane crashed into the Andes mountains, at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet.

Of the 45 people who were onboard, 33 survived the initial crash. However, due to injuries sustained in the crash, the unforgiving weather conditions, and the fact that it took 72 days for every survivor to be rescued, only 16 made it off the mountain alive.

Their story has been immortalized in pop culture thanks to the 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, written by Piers Paul Read - which was later made into a Hollywood movie in 1993.

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Survivors of the Uruguayan plane crash taking shelter in the fuselage of the wrecked aircraft. Credit: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

One of the most disturbingly captivating elements of the survivors' story is that they resorted to eating the flesh of their fallen friends in order to survive. Now, in an interview with The Sunday Times, some of the survivors of Fairchild FH-2270 have spoken out about the decisions that led to their survival.

The outlet reports that following the crash, the only food available to the survivors was eight chocolate bars, a tin of mussels, some almonds, some dates, three small jars of jam, and a few bottles of wine.

Once this supply had run out, the group made a pact that they would eat the bodies of those who did not survive.

One survivor, 70-year-old Ramon Sabella, recalled: "Of course, the idea of eating human flesh was terrible, repugnant..."

He continued: "It was hard to put in your mouth, but we got used to it. In a sense, our friends were some of the first organ donors in the world – they helped to nourish us and kept us alive."

Fellow survivor Carlitos Paez added: "Eating human flesh doesn’t taste like anything, really".

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The survivors of the crash pictured in 2002. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy

Paez also spoke about how he now travels the world, "condemned to tell this story for evermore", as he has made a career as a lecturer.

Another of the survivors, Eduardo Strauch, also recalled the devastating lengths he had to go to in his own 2012 memoir, Out of the Silence.

In his book, Strauch recalls the moment he first tasted human flesh, writing: "I swallowed it with disgust [...] I felt my entire body rejecting that tiny bite [...] a taboo thousands of years old had been crushed in my mouth."

Per the New York Post, Strauch reflected on how the harrowing experience actually "united [him] with the universe and with other living beings in a profound way".

The survivors also told The Times that the group reunites every year on December 22 - the day the rescue began - in order to remember those that didn't make it off the mountain alive.

Featured image credit: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

Andes plane crash survives recall eating the flesh of dead friends 50 years after tragedy

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

Survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash have opened up about having to eat the flesh of their fallen friends in order to survive.

Fifty years ago, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was flying an amateur rugby team from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile. However, tragedy struck when the plane crashed into the Andes mountains, at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet.

Of the 45 people who were onboard, 33 survived the initial crash. However, due to injuries sustained in the crash, the unforgiving weather conditions, and the fact that it took 72 days for every survivor to be rescued, only 16 made it off the mountain alive.

Their story has been immortalized in pop culture thanks to the 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, written by Piers Paul Read - which was later made into a Hollywood movie in 1993.

size-large wp-image-1263173573
Survivors of the Uruguayan plane crash taking shelter in the fuselage of the wrecked aircraft. Credit: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

One of the most disturbingly captivating elements of the survivors' story is that they resorted to eating the flesh of their fallen friends in order to survive. Now, in an interview with The Sunday Times, some of the survivors of Fairchild FH-2270 have spoken out about the decisions that led to their survival.

The outlet reports that following the crash, the only food available to the survivors was eight chocolate bars, a tin of mussels, some almonds, some dates, three small jars of jam, and a few bottles of wine.

Once this supply had run out, the group made a pact that they would eat the bodies of those who did not survive.

One survivor, 70-year-old Ramon Sabella, recalled: "Of course, the idea of eating human flesh was terrible, repugnant..."

He continued: "It was hard to put in your mouth, but we got used to it. In a sense, our friends were some of the first organ donors in the world – they helped to nourish us and kept us alive."

Fellow survivor Carlitos Paez added: "Eating human flesh doesn’t taste like anything, really".

size-large wp-image-1263173574
The survivors of the crash pictured in 2002. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy

Paez also spoke about how he now travels the world, "condemned to tell this story for evermore", as he has made a career as a lecturer.

Another of the survivors, Eduardo Strauch, also recalled the devastating lengths he had to go to in his own 2012 memoir, Out of the Silence.

In his book, Strauch recalls the moment he first tasted human flesh, writing: "I swallowed it with disgust [...] I felt my entire body rejecting that tiny bite [...] a taboo thousands of years old had been crushed in my mouth."

Per the New York Post, Strauch reflected on how the harrowing experience actually "united [him] with the universe and with other living beings in a profound way".

The survivors also told The Times that the group reunites every year on December 22 - the day the rescue began - in order to remember those that didn't make it off the mountain alive.

Featured image credit: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy