1972: Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571


This gory plane crash has all the trappings of your worst nightmare, save for the miraculous ending. On Oct. 13, 1972, a Fairchild FH-227 carrying 45 passengers comprising members of Uruguay’s Old Christian Club rugby team, their friends and family, departed from Montevideo to Santiago, Chile. Strong headwinds and heavy cloud cover disoriented the pilots at the Andean pass, forcing them to start their descent too soon. The result: the plane clipped an unnamed peak at 13,800 feet, which severed the right wing. The plane hit another peak, which severed the left wing, and the fuselage crashed into the mountain and slid to a halt at 11,800 feet.

More than a quarter of the passengers died on impact and, on Oct. 29, eight more died in an avalanche. The survivors resorted to cannibalism, living off the remains of the dead. Two of the crash survivors, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, struck out to find help and, on Dec. 22, returned with a helicopter rescue party. By Dec. 23, all 16 survivors were safely off the mountain, recuperating from severe frostbite, starvation, hypothermia and many other ills in a Santiago hospital.

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