Alive: A rugby team's fight to survive
January 16, 2008
Re-live the epic tale of Old Christians' fateful flight over the Andes courtesy of our colleagues at ESPN who visited the survivors of the crash to mark the 35th anniversary of their rescue. Click here to watch our video!
ESPN reporter Chris Connelly spent two weeks in South America interviewing several people touched by the disaster, including three survivors, of the "Andes Flight Disaster" for Outside the Lines.
The program originally aired the week of the 35th anniversary of when the last survivors were rescued from the October 13, 1972 crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying 45 people including the Stella Maris College's "Old Christians" rugby team, into Argentina's Andes Mountains.
The 72 days experienced by the 16 survivors before their rescue, spent battling, dehydration, frostbite, broken bones from the crash, scurvy and eating the flesh of the dead to avoid starvation, was recounted memorably in the 1993 film Alive: The Miracle of the Andes.
"You feel very sad, very, very sad, and you think, 'Why do I have to do that?'
"Of course it was repugnant when you have to cut the piece of a dead person and eat it, and I thought, if I have to do this to go back to my mother and tell her, 'Don't cry anymore, your son is alive,' I would eat in a second. I didn't want to cause her this huge pain of dying for a dead son." - Survivor Roberto Canessa
"We spent three hours on horseback through the Andes foothills - like a riding a horse on the railing of the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building - to get to the place where two of the Andes rugby-team survivors were found by the farmer, Sergio Catalan, who is the center of our story," commented Connelly.
"The survivors were amazing men, with great careers full of achievements, gorgeous families, and the ability to talk about their experiences in English, which was impressive all in itself.
"They live lives that are very much of the 21st century, but the man who saved them lives a life straight out of the 19th century. Seeing the rural Chliean world of Sergio Catalan was a revelation to all of us. Seeing the depth of feeling he and the survivors share was a privilege."