BOGOTA, Colombia — A woman who survived a plane crash with her months-old baby, drinking water to stay alive, was finally rescued after four days lost in the jungle, Colombia's air force and rescuers said.
Maria Nelly Murillo and her child were aboard a twin-engine Cessna that crashed Saturday in a remote area of western Colombia shortly after taking flight from the city of Quibdo, the air force said.
The pilot was killed, but rescuers said a heavy load of fresh fish in the cabin absorbed much of the crash impact, allowing Murillo and her son to survive against the odds.
She forced open the cabin door and climbed a hill to get away from the air craft, which she feared might explode, the air force reported.
Apparently disoriented, she wandered in the jungle carrying her child, surviving on coconut water and trying unsuccessfully to trap rodents for food, said Acisclo Renteria, the Red Cross volunteer who eventually found her, speaking to The Associated Press from Quibdo.
Searchers reached the plane two days after the crash but found the two passengers missing.
The air force said it sent out a helicopter with a loudspeaker urging the woman to return to the crash site, and Renteria said a team of about 40 people began to search for her.
They were aided, he said, by a trail of clues left by Murillo, including a flip flop sandal, her son's birth certificate, a cellular phone and the remains of coconuts.
But after two more days, as rescuers began to lose hope, Renteria said he spotted a buzzing circle of flies hovering over something on the ground. As he approached, Murillo began to shout for help and attempted to get to her feet in a state of near-starvation and apparent shock.
"I told her 'Mama, Mama, be calm. The Colombian Red Cross is here to rescue you,'" Renteria said.
During the next four hours, while waiting for an air lift to arrive, rescuers administered Murillo first aid and fed her water and crackers by hand. Renteria said he stayed with the baby, cleaning its mouth of debris and keeping it snug against his overalls.
He said a grateful Murillo asked him to be the boy's godfather
The 38-year-old rescuer, who is unemployed and displaced from his hometown by violence stemming from Colombia's long-running conflict, said he saw the success as a blessing.
"I thanked my little God for allowing me to save these two people," Renteria said. "One thing is telling you on the phone what we experienced but it's quite another is to have lived it."