(NEW YORK) — Relatives of four children who survived a plane crash followed by 40 days alone in Colombia’s Amazon rainforest are reportedly fighting for custody of the siblings.
Astrid Caceres, director of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), told a Bogota-based radio station that a caseworker has been assigned to the children at the request of their maternal grandparents, who are vying for custody with the father of the two youngest siblings. The agency has not ruled out that the children and their mother may have experienced domestic abuse, according to Caceres.
“We are going to talk, investigate, learn a little about the situation,” Caceres said in an interview with BLU Radio on Monday. “The most important thing at this moment is the children’s health, which is not only physical but also emotional.”
The four Huitoto Indigenous children — ranging in age from 1 to 13 — were traveling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to the town of San Jose del Guaviare via a Cessna single-engine propeller plane on May 1 when the pilot declared an emergency due to engine failure. The aircraft, which was carrying a total of seven people, disappeared from the radar as it was flying over the rainforest, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Colombia.
The Military Forces of Colombia deployed more than 100 soldiers with sniffer dogs to search the area, locating the plane wreckage in the dense jungle in Caqueta several days later. Three adults, including the pilot and the children’s mother, were found dead while the four siblings, who survived the crash, were missing, authorities said.
On June 9, after more than a month of intense search efforts, the siblings were found alive in the rainforest just 3 kilometers (less than 2 miles) from the crash site. They were subsequently taken to a hospital in San Jose del Guaviare before being transferred to a military hospital in the Colombian capital of Bogota, where they remain and are expected to stay for several more days as they continue to recover. Authorities described the children as being in good condition considering their ordeal, albeit weak.
Meanwhile, Colombia’s child protection agency, ICBF, is interviewing family members to determine who should care for the siblings.
The youngest is in intensive care “not due to any serious condition but for closer monitoring due to her age,” Caceres told BLU Radio.
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