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Alive' plane crash survivors meet in Chile 40 years later

posted 12 Oct 2012, 13:09 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Oct 2012, 13:10 ]

Rugby team-mate survivors of the 1972 plane crash in the Andes meet with Chile's Pinera to mark 40 years since their unlikely rescue.

SANTIAGOCHILE (OCTOBER 12, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes mountains met in with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Friday (October 12) 40 years after their unlikely rescue.

A Uruguayan air force plane packed with a rugby team from a Montevideo college crashed into the frozen mountains, leaving just 16 of its 45 passengers alive.

The 72-day saga that followed was immortalised in Piers Paul Read's 1973 book "Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors" and made into the Hollywood movie "Alive" in 1993.

Gustavo Zerbino was among the survivors, who famously resorted to eating the flesh of victims in order to survive.

"We came here to thank the Chilean people, everyone who prayed for us so we could be here," Zerbino said.

But it was Nando Parrado and another, Roberto Canessa, who made the unlikely 10-day trek out of the mountains to civilisation, shocking the world with news that the men, long thought dead, had survived.

"We had the fortune of getting to know this fantastic country. We got here walking. We crossed the Andes and I think we are a testament to human resilience, to the mental and physical strength of humans. (We were) received and rescued by our brother nationChile and we are grateful," Parrado said

The first person Parrado and Canessa ran into was Chilean livestock farmer Sergio Catalan, who was also at the government palace on Friday.

Pinera said he often thinks about the trials suffered by the survivors when he is faced with adversity.

"In hard times, I ask myself what our Uruguayan comrades and brothers would do to face adversity, and they are always an inspiration for me," he said.

Catalan, now 87-years-old, got the shocking news from Parrado and Canessa while herding cattle on the Chilean slope of the Andes. He rode his horse into the nearest town to alert authorities.

Helicopters were sent to the survivors, who had been hunkered down at the torn fuselage of the plane for over two months.