Human Interest

Searchers find new traces of 4 kids missing after Colombia jungle plane crash

Bogota, May 24 (EFE).- Colombian army troops and indigenous volunteers participating in the search for four children who are missing after a jungle plane crash on May 1 have found new indications that the kids probably survived the accident but set out on foot to find help or get back to civilization.

In recent hours the search teams – made up of Colombian military personnel and Nunak tribespeople who entered the search zone two days ago – located diapers, tennis shoes, a cell phone accessory, the cap of a baby’s bottle and a towel in two different spots, the Army reported on Wednesday.

The first items were found about 560 meters (about a third of a mile) west of the spot where the Cessna 206 plane crashed with seven people on board. The three adults on the plane died, including the pilot, and the four minors who were on board are still missing.

At the first location, a Nukak woman and Special Forces commandos found a pair of tennis shoes which, due to their size, probably belong to a child under age 4, a used diaper and a green towel.

Then, at a second spot 428 meters (a quarter-mile) northwest of the accident site, searchers found another diaper, a pink cap from a bottle and a black cellphone frame, the Army added.

Authorities are analyzing the items to determine what route the four children took.

The small plane, operated by Avianline Charters, apparently developed engine trouble and crashed as it was flying between Araracuara, a remote community on the border between Caqueta and Amazonas provinces, and San Jose del Guaviare. The wreckage was found about a week later near the village of Palma Rosa, in the municipality of Solana in Caqueta.

Since then, authorities have been conducting an intensive search for the four children: Lesly Mucutuy, 13; Soleiny Mucutuy, 9; Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy, 4, and Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy, 11 months.

Due to the condition of the various items found so far, the kids were probably at those sites between May 3-8, and the military said that this suggests “the possibility that the four children survived the accident and possibly suffered no open wounds, since no traces of blood were found.”

Seventeen days ago, Special Forces troops entered the jungles of Caqueta and Guaviare “where you can’t see more than 20 meters (65 feet) and the sunlight only penetrates with difficulty down through the trees.”

Up to now, the most recent sign linked to the children had been found on May 18, when recent tracks were spotted near a stream six kilometers (3.7 miles) from the accident site.

“This encourages the titanic efforts of Operation Hope, where more than 350 Colombians, including state institutions, the civilian population and (tribal) communities are using all their technological capabilities, knowledge and experience to defy the impossible and bring back the four children,” the army said.

So far, the army and Civil Aeronautics (Aerocivil) personnel have found “a shelter built in an improvised way with sticks and branches,” where they also found “scissors and little bows that women usually use to hold their hair,” and even pieces of fruit that may have been eaten by the children.

Earlier, in another spot, a dog being used in the search found a bottle, which presumably had been used to feed the baby.

EFE –/bp

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