Hope for Colombian plane crash children after footprint discovery

The search for the four Indigenous children continues, as footprints and fruit with apparent bite marks are found.

A soldier stands next to the wreckage of a plane in the jungle
A soldier stands in front of the wreckage of the Cessna 206 on May 18, more than two weeks after it crashed in the jungle of Solano in the Caqueta state of Colombia [Colombia's Armed Forces Press Office via AP]

Colombian authorities have found what they believe to be traces of four Indigenous children who went missing after a plane crash in the jungle, renewing hope that they may still be alive.

Search teams discovered what they believe to be a child-sized footprint in the mud on Monday, as well as pieces of fruit with what appear to be small bite marks. The children have been missing since May 1.

A video released by the Colombian military shows searchers playing a voice recording of the children’s parents in an effort to locate them. Another video shows soldiers walking through the jungle calling out for the children.

The children were flying between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, when the small Cessna 206 plane they were travelling in experienced an engine malfunction and crashed into the jungle.

All three adults on the plane, including the pilot, were killed.

The children are members of the Uitoto Indigenous community and have been identified as 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, nine-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, four-year-old Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy and Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy, who was only 11 months old.

Preliminary information from the civil aviation authority suggested that the children had escaped the crash and set off into the jungle to find help.

They have now been missing for more than four weeks. President Gustavo Petro tweeted that the children had been discovered on May 17, only to delete the post several hours later and say that the children had not yet been recovered.

“I have decided to delete the tweet because the information provided by the ICBF [Colombian Institute of Family Welfare] could not be confirmed,” Petro wrote afterwards.

“I regret what happened. The Military Forces and the Indigenous communities will continue in their tireless search to give the country the news it is waiting for.”

Military personnel have been assisted in their search by people from nearby Indigenous communities. A baby bottle was found in the jungle last week, and authorities believe it could be connected to the children.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies