Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, also known as the Andes flight disaster, and in South America as Miracle in the Andes (El Milagro de los Andes) was a chartered flight carrying 45 people, including a rugby team and their friends and family and associates thatcrashed in the Andes on October 13, 1972. More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash, andseveral more quickly succumbed to cold and injury. Of the twenty-nine who were alive a few days after the accident, another eight were killed by an avalanche that swept over their shelter in the wreckage. The last of the 16 survivors were rescued on December 23, 1972, more than two months after the crash.
The survivors had little food and no source of heat in the harsh conditions, at over 3,600 metres(11,800 ft) altitude. Faced with starvation and radio news reports that the search for them had been abandoned, the survivors fed on the dead passengers who had been preserved in the snow. Rescuers did not learn of the survivors until 72 days after the crash when passengers Nando Parrado andRoberto Canessa, after a 10-day trek across the Andes, found a Chilean huaso, who gave them food and thenalerted authorities about the existence of the other survivors.
On Friday the 13th of October, 1972, a Uruguayan Air Force twin turboprop Fairchild FH-227D was flying over the Andes carrying Old Christians Club rugby union team from Montevideo, Uruguay, to play a match in Santiago, Chile. The trip had begun the day before, when the Fairchild departed from Carrasco InternationalAirport, but inclement mountain weather forced an overnight stop in Mendoza. At the Fairchild's ceiling of 29,500 feet (9,000 m), the plane could not fly directly from Mendoza, over the Andes, to Santiago, in large part because of the weather. Instead, the pilots had to fly south from Mendoza parallel to the Andes, then turn west towards the mountains, fly through a low pass (Planchon), cross themountains and emerge on the Chilean side of the Andes south of Curico before finally turning north and initiating descent to Santiago after passing Curico. After resuming the flight on the afternoon of October 13, the plane was soon flying through the pass in the mountains. The pilot then notified air controllers in Santiago that he was over Curicó, Chile, and was cleared to descend. This would prove tobe a fatal error. Since the pass was covered by the clouds, the pilots had to rely on the usual time required to cross the pass (dead reckoning). However, they failed to take into account strong headwinds that ultimately slowed the plane and increased the time required to complete the crossing: they were not as far west as they thought they were. As a result, the turn and descent were initiatedtoo soon, before the plane had passed through the mountains, leading to a controlled flight into terrain.
Dipping into the cloud cover while still over the mountains, the Fairchild soon crashed on an unnamed peak (later called Cerro Seler, also known as Glaciar de las Lágrimas or Glacier of Tears), located between Cerro Sosneado and Volcán Tinguiririca, straddling the remote mountainous borderbetween Chile and Argentina. The plane clipped the peak at 4,200 metres (13,800 ft), neatly severing the right wing, which was thrown back with such force that it cut off the vertical stabilizer, leaving a gaping hole in the rear of the fuselage. The plane then clipped a second peak which severed the left wing and left the plane as just a fuselage flying through the air. One of the propellers slicedthrough the fuselage as the wing it was attached to was severed. The fuselage hit the ground and slid down a steep mountain slope before finally coming to rest in a snow bank. The location of the crash site is 34°45′54″S70°17′11″WCoordinates: 34°45′54″S 70°17′11″W, in the Argentine municipality of Malargüe (Malargüe Department, Mendoza Province).
Of the 45 people on the plane,...