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Survivor of 1972 Andes Plane Crash Recounts Being Forced Into Cannibalism to Survive

A survivor of a plane crash in South America that led survivors to resort to cannibalism has spoken about his thoughts regarding the disaster.



A survivor of the harrowing 1972 plane crash in South America that led survivors to resort to cannibalism and was dramatically depicted in the 1993 film Alive has spoken about his thoughts regarding the disaster, noting that the ordeal “doesn’t live with him.”

Jose Luis “Coche” Inciarte was among the 16 people on the ill-fated Uruguayan Air Force flight 571, also called Miracle of the Andes, who managed to survive when the airplane crashed in the Andean mountain range between Chile and Argentina on Oct. 13, 1972.

When the plane crashed, 12 passengers were immediately killed. Five more died within hours, and one more person died a week later. An avalanche killed eight more people after 17 days.

The remaining survivors had no choice but to eat the flesh of the dead in order to sustain themselves, Coche recounted, noting that the initial decision required “a great effort of energy and mind.”

However, the horrific ordeal “doesn’t live with” him, he noted.

“No, the story doesn’t live with me,” Coche said. “I live my life as I imagined in those days and when I am having problems I think about the Andes and the problem seems to be very little against the others, so it helps me, but it’s not part of my life.”

“There was no other option if you wanted to stay alive,” he continued. “We made a meeting between all and we argued whether to do it or not to do it, not to do it seemed to mean to die, [so] everybody decided to eat.”

The dramatic rendition of the ordeal in the film Alive was more or less accurate, despite some embellishments on the part of screenwriters, he said.

“Some things are invented, and others are true,” he said. “The film is very well done with all the effects, but we never fell into a hole in the snow and the other is really for me, my actor had a guitar, I’ve never played in my whole life.”

When stranded on the mountain, Coche nearly gave in to despair before help arrived after 72 days, when two who left the party managed to locate a Chilean herdsman who notified authorities.

“Most days I thought I was going to go out from there… I had a great confidence with them to reach some place and they did it,” he said. “But other days, in those terrible days that we were waiting for them, I [thought] that they were not going to reach any place, so I put my date of dying on December 24.”

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