June 25, 2024 | Sarah Ng

Surviving 72 Days Stranded In The Andes


The Greatest Survival Story Of All Time

The Andes flight disaster—or the Miracle of the Andes—might be one of history's most harrowing survival stories.Andes-Msn

45 People On Board

This true story begins with a doomed flight: the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571. Departing on October 12, 1972, there were 45 people on board, including 19 athletes from the Old Christians Club rugby union team, as well as their close friends and family.

Screenshot of people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

An Excited Rugby Team

This rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay had to travel to Santiago, Chile for a game. They were able to bring friends and family thanks to 10 extra seats. 

Sadly, this exciting journey would only end in horror.

Screenshot of people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

An Inexperienced Co-Pilot

The flight's pilot, Colonel Julio César Ferradas, was very experienced and had 5,117 hours of flying under his belt. Unfortunately, his co-pilot, Lieutenant-Colonel Dante Héctor Lagurara, did not have the same level of experience. The flight was a training experience for him.

At the time of the crash, Lagurara was responsible for the controls. 

Screenshot of cocpit of the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Heavy Cloud Cover

Lagurara made a terrible mistake while piloting. With such heavy cloud cover and low visibility, he should have been relying on the instrument readings to determine the aircraft's location. For mysterious reasons, it seems that he did not reference them.

Screenshot of the plane in the air - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

He Descended Too Soon

If Lagurara had looked at the instrument readings, he would have known that the plane was around 60-69 km east of Curicó. Incorrectly, he thought it was time to descend, believing he was headed for Pudahuel Airport in Santiago de Chile. 

Screenshot of the plane in the air - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Had Not Cleared The Andes

When Lagurara regained visibility, a horrible realization likely hit him in the gut... They were still flying over the Andes.

Screenshot of the Andes from the air - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Severe Turbulence

During the plane's perilous descent, the passengers experienced major turbulence. Rugby player Nando Parrado recalled that, at first, everyone was trying to make light of the bumpy ride.

Screenshot of people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

A Dark Realization

However, any lightheartedness quickly faded once the passengers realized how close the plane had flown to the mountains.

Screenshot of scared people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

A Desperate Climb

Passenger Nando Parrado later described the plane's descent and the horror of regaining visibility, "This rapid descent dropped us below the clouds, and that was probably the moment when the pilots saw the black ridge rising dead ahead. They gunned the Fairchild F-227's engines in a desperate effort to climb."

Screenshot of scared people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Plane Went Vertical

Roberta Canessa was another passenger and rugby player—a 19-year-old medical student—who also shared the details of the fateful crash: "He began to climb, until the plane was nearly vertical and it began to stall and shake. Then we smashed into the side of the mountain."

Screenshot of the plane in the air - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Hit The Ridge

Tragically, the efforts of the pilot to make it over the mountain weren't successful. The underside of the plane crashed into the ridge—and the consequences were devastating.

Screenshot of scared people on board on Flight 571 - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Wings Came Off

According to Nando Parrado's recollection of events, he remembered the plane's wings coming off, followed by damage to the fuselage, and the tail end of the aircraft falling away.

Screenshot of destroyed plane in the air - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The First Fatalities 

The five passengers seated behind Parrado perished: the flight steward, the plane's navigator, and three passengers. But this was only the beginning of the nightmare.

Screenshot of couple looking scared in the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Falling Out Of The Plane

Only moments later, two more passengers tumbled out of the back of the plane—Daniel Shaw and Carlos Valeta. Though Valeta initially survived the fall, he eventually asphyxiated in the snow.

Screenshot of scared man looking back in the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

A Crushing Blow

The last of the fatalities occurred once the fuselage hit the snow bank. This force of impact loosened the passenger seats, and caused them to fly forward, crushing multiple people. 

Screenshot of people looking scared in the falling plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Loss Of Both Pilots

The crash crushed both pilots, trapping them in the cockpit. Pilot Ferradas passed immediately, but Lagurara survived with critical injuries. He begged a survivor to end his life, but his wishes went unanswered. He passed the next day.

Screenshot of destroyed plane body in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Critical Injuries

After the initial crash, 33 of the 45 passengers survived—but some of the injuries were fatal. The passengers who had sustained compound fractures didn't make it. 

Screenshot of scared man screaming in the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

28 Left Alive

The first night after the crash, five more people passed away, leaving 28 souls stranded and terrified in the Andes. But not all hope was lost.

Screenshot of destroyed plane body in the snow with people in side - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Medical Students Tended To The Injured

Two of the passengers were medical students: Roberto Canessa and Gustavo Zerbino. They were the ones to tend to the survivors, treating any wounds to the best of their abilities.

Screenshot of man helping injured people in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Close Calls

Arturo Nogueira broke both his legs, Nando Parrado suffered a skull fracture, and Enrique Platero had been impaled by a piece of metal—and yet, despite their excruciating injuries, they pulled through. 

Screenshot of people looking scared in the body of the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Building A Shelter

The survivors of the crash didn't sit around and wait to be found. Instead, they leapt into action, building a shelter for themselves with the debris and broken parts of the plane. They patched up the fuselage with the broken passenger seats, snow, and remaining luggage.

Screenshot of injured people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Collecting Water

The passenger Fito Strauch was especially helpful as he used sheet metal to create a solar-powered water collector. He also fashioned sunglasses using bra straps, wire, and plastic sun visors—and these were essential as they provided protection from snow blindness.

Screenshot of melting snow in the sun - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Staying Warm

There was also the matter of staying warm in such frigid temperatures. Thankfully, the seat covers were made of wool, while the cushions could be used as snowshoes.

Screenshot of people covering from the cold in the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Waking Up

Three days after the crash, Nando Parrado—who had fractured his skull—woke up. He'd been unconscious for three days. Roberto Canessa told him, "We had given up on you." 

Screenshot of man looking scared in the body of the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

A Real-Life Nightmare

Upon waking up, Parrado received some devastating news: He learned that his mother had perished and that his sister Susana had suffered major injuries. 

Screenshot of man helping injured people in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Losing A Sister

Though Parrado wanted nothing more than for his sister to overcome her wounds, she sadly succumbed to her injuries on the ninth day.

Screenshot of people hugging the plane - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Freezing Temperatures

The 27 survivors, having lived in such a warm climate, were not prepared for the low temperatures or high elevation. At night, it got as cold as −30 °C. All the odds were stacked against them. They had very little food, equipment, and medical supplies. But the worst was yet to come.

Screenshot of destroyed plane body in the snow with people in side - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Nobody Was Looking For Them

After being stranded for 11 days, distressing news blindsided the team. Thanks to an AM transistor radio, they learned that the search for their lost aircraft had been canceled. 

Screenshot of man holding AM radio - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Were On Their Own

After hearing the news that nobody was looking for them, many of the survivors broke down. However, it was Gustavo Nicolich who injected some hope into a hopeless situation.

Screenshot of man talking to other people outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Didn't Give Up

Nicolich reportedly shouted, "Hey boys, there's some good news we just heard on the radio! They've called off the search!" The group couldn't understand how this could possibly be "good news"—but Nicolich had the perfect response. He explained, "Because it means that we're going to get out of here on our own." 

Screenshot of people making X sign in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Had Enough Food For A Week

One of the main struggles the survivors faced was the scarcity of food. The only sustenance recovered from the wreck was as follows: a few bottles of wine, eight chocolate bars, one tin of mussels, one tin of almonds, some jam jars, and a small amount of dates, plums, and candy. 

Screenshot of people looking scared outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Rationed It Out

The survivors only had enough food to last them seven days. They were desperate to stretch out these rations—so much so that, over the course of three days, Nando Parrado even managed to sustain himself on a single chocolate-covered peanut.

However, once the food had disappeared, the situation took an even darker turn.

Screenshot of man making food for other people outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Ate Leather

They were unable to forage for food around the location of the crash site as there were no plants or animals. The survivors were so hungry, they began eating the leather from their shoes and belts. But that wasn't all. They also tried to eat the cotton from inside the passenger seats. Unfortunately, this only made them ill.

Screenshot of injured people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Faced Starvation

It wasn't long before the survivors faced imminent starvation. That's when they faced their most difficult decision yet.

Screenshot of injured people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

There Was One Food Source Left

Roberto Canessa later explained how the team anguished over whether they should eat their deceased friends: "The bodies of our friends and team-mates preserved outside in the snow and ice contained the vital, life-preserving proteins that would keep us alive. But could we do it? For a long time we agonized. I went out in the snow and prayed to God for guidance. Without His consent, I felt I would be violating the memory of my friends, that I would be stealing their souls."

Screenshot of injured people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Made The Most Difficult Decision

In the end, everyone granted each other permission to consume their flesh if they happened to perish. Aware that there were no search teams looking for them and no more food, the survivors made the painful decision to eat their fallen friends.

Screenshot of people digging in the snow outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

He Took The First Bite

It was Roberto Canessa who took the first bite. Using a piece of glass, he portioned himself a small piece of meat. At first, not everyone was willing—many of them were still revolted by the idea of cannibalism.

Screenshot of man giving food to other man - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Ate Everything

In order to make the meat ready for consumption, they dried it out in the sun. However, because it was such a distressing act, they could only bring themselves to eat the fat, skin, and muscle. But that didn't last forever. Eventually, they also ate the internal organs. This included the brains, lungs, and hearts.

Screenshot of people digging in the snow outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Were Worried About Their Souls

Cannibalizing one's friends and family was already a traumatizing experience, but it was made all the more difficult because every passenger was Roman Catholic. A number of the survivors were worried that eating the dried meat would endanger their very souls.

Screenshot of scared man looking down - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Turned To The Bible

Confronted with their religion and morals, some tried to find reason in the act by drawing parallels between cannibalism and the Eucharist. They even referenced a bible verse, John 15:14, as justification: "No man hath greater love than this: That he lay down his life for his friends."

Screenshot of people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Were Extremely Reluctant

In the end, every survivor eventually gave in to their hunger and ate their comrades' flesh. However, some of the passengers only consumed what they needed to survive, and were extremely resistant to the idea.

They were already living their worst nightmare—but fate had another cruel twist in store for them.

Screenshot of people looking scared outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Hit By An Avalanche

17 days after being stranded in the Andes, another tragedy came to pass: an avalanche. On October 29, it hit the wrecked aircraft during the night. 

Screenshot of man making hole in the snow outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Lost Their Captain

Everyone was asleep at the time, but the snow smothered eight passengers, including Marcelo Perez. Perez had been the rugby team's captain and acted as the survivors' leader. Losing him was especially harrowing for the group. 

Screenshot of scared man screaming in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Almost Suffocated

Those who managed to survive the avalanche were in crisis mode once again. The snow filled the fuselage, leaving only three feet of air space. If they didn't escape, they'd eventually suffocate.

Screenshot of man making hole in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Horrors Kept Coming

It was Nando Parrado who came up with a solution, using a pole to open one of the windscreens and making an air hole. It wasn't until October 31 that the team tunneled out of the fuselage. But upon exiting, they were faced with another horror.

Screenshot of people looking scared - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Had To Wait Out A Blizzard

Though the survivors managed to escape the snow-filled fuselage, a blizzard awaited them. This left them no choice but to stay inside the aircraft alongside their deceased comrades and wait the blizzard out.

Screenshot of people looking scared in the plane body - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Unthinkable

Trapped for three days, the survivors had no choice but to eat the bodies inside the fuselage. Later, Parrado explained how disturbing the experience was: "It was soft and greasy, streaked with blood and bits of wet cartilage. I gagged hard when I placed it in my mouth."

Screenshot of man looking scared - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Put Together An Expedition

Following the avalanche debacle, the group decided that it was time for a number of them to head out on an expedition in search of help. Three of the strongest men made up the expedition team: Nando Parrado, Antonio Vizintin, and Roberto Canessa.

Screenshot of people looking scared outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Built Up Their Strength

In preparation for their expedition, the three men had bigger rations and were given the warmest clothes available. After waiting for the temperature to rise, it was finally time for them to set out.

Screenshot of man looking scared outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Found Batteries

The three men headed east and eventually stumbled across part of the aircraft's tail. This is when they made an important discovery. Along with some luggage that contained some food, they also found the vessel's batteries.

Screenshot of man looking in the plane body outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Hoped To Send Out An SOS

Though the team tried to continue the expedition, the temperatures were too extreme. Instead of continuing, they opted to bring the batteries back to the crash site. They believed that the batteries might allow them to use the radio and send out an SOS. But there was just one problem.

Screenshot of man holding antenna outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Were Too Heavy

Unfortunately, the batteries were too heavy for the three men to transport. Instead, they decided to bring the radio to the batteries. However, there was something they didn't realize.

Screenshot of man looking upset outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

It Was A Doomed Plan

Tragically, the batteries supplied 24 Volt DC, while the radio needed 115 Volt AC. The batteries were never going to work—and the plan ultimately failed.

If the survivors hoped to make it out alive, they realized that they would have to escape the mountains on their own.

Screenshot of man looking upset outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Victims Of Infection

Two more men lost their lives to infection: Arturo Nogueira passed on November 15, and Rafael Echavarren followed three days later.

Screenshot of hand on the glass - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Last Man To Die

The final man to die was Numa Turcatti. He had been especially resistant to eating his comrades to survive and he wasted away. On the day he perished—day 60—he weighed just 55 pounds.

Screenshot of people digging in the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Had To Journey Over The Mountains

The final men left standing came to a hard realization. If they hoped to survive then they would have to journey over the mountains. However, they needed to find a way to withstand the freezing temperatures during the night.

Screenshot of people seating on the metal plate outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Fashioned A Special Sleeping Bag

Using the fuselage's insulation and the air conditioner's waterproof fabric, they managed to create a decent sleeping bag—one that could keep all three of them alive out in the elements after the sun went down.

Screenshot of man making sleeping bag outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Set Out On A Second Expedition

Again, it was Parrado, Vizintín, and Canessa who undertook the expedition. The three brave men set out on December 12 and began climbing the glacier. Their starting point was at an elevation of 3.560 meters.

Screenshot of man looking upset outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Were Not Prepared

The climb seemed like an impossible task. The three men had no climbing experience or compass, and of course, they did not have the proper gear. Parrado's attire consisted of three sweaters and a polo shirt, three pairs of jeans, and four pairs of socks. To keep his feet insulated, he also wrapped his feet in a plastic shopping bags.

Screenshot of people looking scared outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Reached The Top

Though they had anticipated reaching the top of the ridge in a day, it actually took three days. But when they finally made it, a chilling scene awaited them.

Screenshot of man walking on the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Had So Much Further To Go

Though they'd hoped to see Chile after reaching the top, the grim reality was that there were more mountains. In order to complete their expedition, they needed more time and more rations. 

Screenshot of people walking on the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Split Up

To ensure there was enough food for two, Vizintín returned to the fuselage while Parrado and Canessa forged ahead.

Screenshot of people walking on the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Agreed To Face Death Together

During this difficult time, Parrado said to Canessa, "We may be walking to our deaths, but I would rather walk to meet my death than wait for it to come to me." Canessa had the perfect response, "You and I are friends, Nando. We have been through so much. Now let's go die together."

Screenshot of happy people walking on the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

A Life-Changing Decision

The two men decided to head toward the valley at the base of the mountain, hoping to follow it toward two snowless peaks in the west.

Screenshot of people walking on the snow - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Traveled For 10 Days

Parrado and Canessa's decision to head for the valley was right on the money. For seven days, they hiked into Chile, and by the ninth day, they spotted cows.

Screenshot of survivor from Flight 571 walking on the mountain - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Spotted Three Men

One evening, they stopped to rest—and that's when their wishes were finally answered. Across the river, Parrado and Canessa spotted three men riding horses. Though the rushing sound of the river prevented them from speaking to each other, one man promised to come back the following day.

Screenshot of man with a hat looking at side - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

He Came Back

Luckily, the stranger kept his promise. The next day, he managed to communicate with Parrado and Canessa by fastening a note and a pencil to a stone and hurling it over the river.

Screenshot of man looking at other man on the horse - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Asked For Help

Parrado sent a note right back to the man. It read, "I come from an airplane that crashed in the mountains. I am Uruguayan. We have been walking for 10 days. I have a wounded friend up there. In the plane there are still 14 injured people. We need to get out of here quickly and we don't know how to. We don't have any food. We are very weak. When are you going to come to get us? Please, we can't even walk. Where are we?"

Screenshot of man looking at other man on the horse - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Completed Their Mission

Sergio Catalán was the name of the helpful man assisting Parrado and Canessa. After providing the two men with bread, he set off to fetch help, riding for ten hours to reach a police station. After hearing news of the survivors, the police contacted the Chilean army, who then reached out to the army in Santiago.

Parrado and Canessa had successfully completed their mission.

Screenshot of man eating bread and fruit - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Helicopters Came To The Rescue

Three helicopters eventually came to the rescue, directed to the crash site by Parrado. The pilots were completely stunned that the two men had managed to survive such extreme conditions and traveled over such perilous terrain to reach salvation.

Screenshot of man getting in the army helicopter - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Couldn't Take Them All

On December 22, 1972, two helicopters touched down at the crash site. They could only take the first half of the survivors, but returned the next day for the remaining eight men.

Screenshot of army helicopters landing in the camp - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Getting Treatment

After being rescued, the 16 survivors ended up hospitalized for dehydration, altitude sickness, frostbite, scurvy, malnutrition, and broken bones.

Screenshot of man having medical check up - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

They Didn't Want To Tell The Truth

In the aftermath of this miraculous survival story, the 16 passengers that made it out alive kept the truth about their diet to themselves. Understandably, they wanted to share the hard truth with their families first. However, they underestimated the interest of the public.

Screenshot of survivor from Flight 571 seating on the hospital bed - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Ruthless Rumors

It wasn't long before rumors about cannibalism began circulating. By December 23, reports that the survivors had eaten human flesh blew up around the world.

Screenshot of reporters waiting outside - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

The Pope Was On Their Side

On December 28, Alfredo Delgado spoke on behalf of the survivors, explaining why they had turned to eating the deceased passengers. Though they faced some harsh criticism, in the end, most people—including the Pope himself—understood their decision.

Screenshot of survivors from Flight 571 in hospital - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)

Ultimate Resilience

Since 1972, this survival story has fascinated the public. Considering the unbelievably harsh conditions, the fact that anyone survived the crash sounded downright miraculous—a true testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Screenshot of survivors from Flight 571 outside next to the plane parts - from Society of the Snow (2023)Netflix, Society of the Snow (2023)


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