As the incredible discovery that four children survived a plane crash and lived in the Amazon jungle for 40 DAYS, retired pediatrician DR ROS JONES reveals how the group could have overcome the mammoth challenges they faced
While the physical resilience of these four young children will have been a factor in their survival, as a pediatrician with over 30 years of experience, I think what saved them was their psychological state and youthful naivety.
Unlike most adults, children live in the moment. So these youths would have had little foresight to imagine the dangers.
They would not have been saddled with terror that could trigger the natural instincts of adults to “flee” and cloud people’s ability to make wise decisions. I suspect the children were pragmatic and concentrated on finding food and water. They would have felt robbed after losing their mother in the crash. But, crucially, without experiencing the same complexities of grief as an adult, they wouldn’t have been turned off by grief.
Their native background may have given them the skills to sort out what was safe to eat and what was poisonous – foraging for roots, berries and insects. They must also have had a source of water, as no human can stand without fluids for up to five days.
SURVIVORS: The four children with their rescuers in the Colombian jungle. Top left: the wreckage of the plane crash that killed their mother
Military personnel rescue one of four Indigenous children from a plane on Saturday who went missing after a deadly plane crash at the military air base in Bogota, Colombia
I also suspect that they bonded and cared for each other. The older kids, 13 and 9 years old, may have found some kind of fabric to make a papoose to carry the baby boy. The year-old is likely still nursing, but could digest a mixed diet — perhaps of fruit or even ants — from the other children.
If they had been underweight they would have struggled.
Another survival factor was temperature. Had they crashed in a cold environment, there would have been a high risk, as children have a much larger skin area than adults, so they lose heat more quickly.
Their kidney function, regardless of age, would have been another life saver. The kidney has a remarkable ability to shut down and stop urine production when they don’t get enough water, so the body doesn’t lose unnecessary fluid.
Every human being has a strong survival instinct – but perhaps children can best put this into practice.