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10 great escapes

By: MNN Admin on Oct. 12, 2010, 4:39 p.m.
Air Force flight 571 crash

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

8 of 13

Andes flight disaster

On Oct. 13, 1972, a Uruguayan rugby team and their friends and family boarded Air Force flight 571 in Montevideo, Uruguay, for a match in Santiago, Chile. However, inclement weather caused the pilot to crash in the Andes Mountains the next day, killing 12 of the 45 passengers on impact.

Chances of survival were so slim that the search mission was called off after just eight days, and as days passed, passengers succumbed to injuries and freezing temperatures and survivors were left with little hope. Rationed food ran out quickly, and the remaining passengers made the gruesome decision to eat the flesh of their dead friends, which had been preserved in the snow.

Disaster struck again on Oct. 29 when an avalanche killed eight people who had been sleeping in the fuselage of the plane. Realizing they wouldn’t survive much longer without help, two of the players began a trek over the mountain in search of help on Dec. 12. Several days later, Fernando Parrado and Roberto Canessa reached the Rio Azufre river valley where they encountered a group of cowboys who alerted authorities. The remaining survivors were rescued the following day, and the rugby team’s story of survival — and cannibalism — blanketed the media.