It’s a tale that will send chills down anyone’s spine.
When a plane full of amateur rugby players crashed in the Andes in 1972, the 16 survivors ate the flesh of their dead friends to stay alive.
Speaking to reporters on the tragedy’s 50th anniversary, survivor Carlos Paez said it was their duty to travel the world and explain the grim story of their 72 days in the freezing mountains.
On October 13, 1972, 45 people boarded the Uruguayan Flight 571 bound for Santiago, Chile. The pilot would veer off course in dense fog, crashing the chartered flight into the snow-capped peaks.
Twelve of the passengers died instantly. Another 17 either died from their critical injuries or suffocated during an avalanche a few days later.
Ramon Sabella, 70, now a successful businessman, held one of the dying passengers in his arms.
After 10 days, the remaining survivors learnt via radio how the search for them had been called off.
Roberto Canessa, a medical student at the time, suggested the remaining survivors eat the flesh of the dead corpses.
‘Of course, the idea of eating human flesh was terrible, repugnant,’ Mr. Sabella told the Times. ‘It was hard to put in your mouth. But we got used to it.’
He said: ‘In a sense, our friends were some of the first organ donors in the world — they helped to nourish us and kept us alive.’
Mr. Canessa said the decision was particularly difficult because they were the survivors teammates and friends who were dead.
He described using glass to cut the flesh and took solace in knowing their dead teammates would have done the exact same if it was them who died.
The team made a pact that anyone else who died could be eaten by the survivors.
Mr. Canessa and Fernando Parrado decided to head off and find help after two months of being stuck in the mountains.
It took them 10 days to travel three miles down the mountain, all the while eating human flesh they had stuffed inside their rugby socks.
They miraculously came across a Chilean shepherd called Sergio Catalán, but he could not hear them over the water.
The shepherd returned the next day, tossing a rock with a pen and pencil for the survivors, who explained the situation to him.
The shepherd rode 100 miles to alert the authorities.
A helicopter was sent to rescue the remaining survivors, who had lost over half of their body weight.
‘They took us to hospital in Santiago. I remember the joy of that first hot bath,’ Mr. Canessa said.
The survivors are listed as Roberto Canessa, Fernando Parrado, Carlos Rodriguez, Jose Algorta, Alfredo Delgado, Daniel Fernandez, Roberto Francios, Roy Harley, Jose Inciarte, Alvaro Mangino, Javier Methol, Ramon Sabella, Adolfo Strauch, Eduardo Strauch, Antonio Vizintia and Gustavo Zerbino.