Survivors of 1972 ‘cannibal crash’ pitch in for saviour


Santiago (Chile) : The Uruguayan rugby players who survived a plane crash in the Andes mountains of Chile in 1972 and had to resort to eating human flesh to survive have come together for the man who saved them, paying for an operation to relieve his degenerative arthritis.

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Roberto Canessa, one of the survivors of the crash in the freezing mountains that inspired the film "Alive", has offered his assistance and that of his fellow survivors for treating Sergio Catalan, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.

Catalan, 79, was instrumental in the rescue of Canessa and others. His right hip is paralysed, preventing him from walking normally and making it impossible for him to participate in an activity he has enjoyed his entire life – horseback riding.

Another person contributing to Catalan's treatment is Chilean physician Felipe Jugo, who, ironically, was a member of the Chilean rugby club the Uruguayans were supposed to face in Santiago back in 1972, a match finally played in 2002.

"Don Sergio helped in the rescue of my friends, so I think I should lend a hand now that he needs it," Jugo said.

Catalan's help was crucial in the eventual rescue of the 16 Uruguayan survivors of the chartered flight from Montevideo that crashed in the Andes in a storm on Oct 13, 1972.

For several days, Chilean authorities looked for the plane and survivors, but they eventually called off the search, certain that no human being could survive in such horrific conditions.

After an incredible struggle for survival during which the men were forced to eat the dead for sustenance, the nightmare ended on Dec 22, when Catalan came upon Canessa and Fernando Parrado, who had set out to find a way through the mountains, and notified authorities.