Custody battle breaks out over children who survived 40 days in Amazon

Custody battle breaks out over children who survived 40 days in the jungle as it emerges mother who died four days after plane crash was a domestic violence victim who was beaten by her husband

  • The siblings, aged one to 13, were rescued after forty days in the jungle on Friday
  • Now their father and grandfather are fighting a custody battle as they recover
  • Grandfather Narciso Mucutuy claims his daughter was beaten by her husband

A custody battle has broken out among relatives of four Indigenous children who miraculously survived a plane crash and 40 days alone in the Amazon rainforest of southern Colombia amid accusations their father was a domestic abuser.

The siblings, ranging in age from one to 13, remained hospitalised on Monday and were expected to stay for several more days, a period that Colombia’s child protection agency is using to interview family members to determine who should care for them.

On Sunday, grandfather Narciso Mucutuy accused his son-in-law Manuel Ranoque of beating his wife, Magdalena Mucuty.

Narciso told reporters that his grandchildren would hide in the forest when fighting between their parents broke out.

Mr Ranoque acknowledged to reporters there had been trouble at home, but he characterised it as a private family matter and not ‘gossip for the world’.

Asked whether he had attacked his wife, Mr Ranoque said: ‘Verbally, sometimes, yes. Physically, very little. We had more verbal fights.’

Mr Ranoque said he has not been allowed to see the two oldest children at the hospital. 

Four Indigenous children miraculously survived a plane crash and 40 days alone in the Amazon rainforest of southern Colombia

Narciso Mucutuy, the grandfather of the 4 rescued Indigenous children, speaks to the media from the entrance of the military hospital where the children who survived an Amazon plane crash that killed three adults and then braved the jungle for 40 days before being found alive, are receiving medical attention, in Bogota, Colombia, Sunday, June 11, 2023

Indigenous Manuel Ranoque (C), father of the four Indigenous children who were found alive after being lost for 40 days in the Colombian Amazon rainforest following a plane crash, speaks with the press before arriving at the Military Hospital

Exclusive photos show the four siblings, Lesly, 13, Soleiny, nine, Tien Noriel, four, and baby Cristin, one, safe in their hospital beds at a military hospital in Bogota, Colombia 

Handout picture released by the Colombian Army showing a soldier standing next to the wreckage of an aircraft that crashed in the Colombian Amazon forest in the municipality of Solano, department of Caqueta, on May 19, 2023

Astrid Caceres, head of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare, said in an interview with local BLU radio that a caseworker was assigned to the children at the request of their maternal grandparents, who are vying for custody with the father of the two youngest.

EXCLUSIVE: Four brave children found in the Amazon jungle are pictured recovering in their hospital beds surrounded by stuffed animals 


‘We are going to talk, investigate, learn a little about the situation,’ Ms Caceres said, adding that the agency has not ruled out that they and their mother may have experienced domestic abuse.

‘The most important thing at this moment is the children’s health, which is not only physical but also emotional, the way we accompany them emotionally,’ she said.

Caceres refused to comment on why Mr Ranoque was not allowed to see his children in the hospital.

The children were travelling with their mother from the Amazonian village of Araracuara to the town of San Jose del Guaviare in southern Colombia on May 1 when the pilot of the Cessna single-engine propeller plane declared an emergency due to engine failure.

The aircraft fell off the radar a short time later, and a search began for the three adults and four children who were on board.

All adult passengers were found dead in the wreckage of the plane that was suspended almost vertically after smashing into the trees.

Yet more than a month later, the children were found dishevelled, malnourished and dehydrated – but miraculously alive.

They survived by eating cassava flour, seeds and fruits they found in the rainforest which they were familiar with as members of the Huitoto Indigenous group.

Members of the army assist four indigenous children who were found after spending more than a month lost in the Colombian Amazon jungle

Lesly and Soleiny Mucutuy have made touching colored drawings of Wilson the Belgian Shepherd rescue dog who went missing during the mission to save them

Head of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Helder Giraldo, accepts the moving drawings of missing rescue dog Wilson completed by two of the children 

A traditional doctor performs a ritual during the press conference of Luis Acosta (R), coordinator of the indigenous guard in charge of searching for the children lost in the Amazon jungle

Luis Acosta, coordinator of the indigenous guard in charge of searching for the children lost in the Amazon jungle, speaks to the press in Bogota, Colombia, 11 June 2023.

The children were scooped up on Friday and helicoptered to the Colombian capital, Bogota, and then to a military hospital where they have been given psychological services and other support.

Officials have sought to do so in a culturally sensitive way, arranging for spiritual ceremonies and food the children are accustomed to.

As they heal, the children have told relatives harrowing details of their time in the jungle.

The oldest, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, said their mother was alive for about four days after the crash before dying, Mr Ranoque said on Sunday.

‘Let’s be clear, the girl (Lesly) knows everything,’ he said.

‘The only thing that she clarified is that the mother was alive for four days. Before she died… she told them ”Go!” And you will find out what your dad is made of… and what your father’s love is like.’

Meanwhile, the children’s rescuers at the weekend revealed the tragic first words spoken by the severely malnourished kids upon their rescue. 

They described how the eldest child ran towards them holding a baby when she saw them coming.

‘I’m hungry’ and ‘my mom is dead,’ the rescuers say they were told.

The tragic first words spoken by children who survived 40 days in the Colombian jungle have been revealed by their rescuers. Soldiers of the Colombian Air Force and employees of the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) give medical attention inside a plane to the surviving children of a Cessna 206 plane crash

A Colombian Air Force soldier carries one of the surviving children on to the plane. After wandering alone for more than a month, the Huitoto Indigenous children – ages 13, nine, five, and one – were rescued and airlifted out of the Amazon on Friday, and were recovering two days later in a military hospital in the capital Bogota

One of the children holds a surgical glove with a happy face drawn on it, while being transferred to Bogota via air in San Jose del Guaviare

READ MORE: Hunt for hero rescue dog whose paw prints led search teams to four children lost in Amazon jungle 

Belgian Shepherd Wilson played a vital role in tracking down the four children but remains missing in the Amazon rainforest  

‘The eldest daughter, Lesly, with the little one in her arms, ran towards me. Lesly said, “I’m hungry,”‘ Nicolas Ordonez Gomes, one of the search and rescue crew, told public broadcast channel RTVC.

‘One of the two boys was lying down. He got up and said to me, “My mom is dead.”

‘We immediately followed up with positive words, saying that we were friends, that we were sent by the family, the father, the uncle. That we were family,’ Ordonez Gomes added.

In a video released Sunday which showed the children soon after they were found, the kids seemed to be emaciated from their time spent in the wilderness.

Their rescuers were seen singing, smoking tobacco – a plant considered sacred among many jungle residents – and celebrating.

Magdalena Mucutuy, the children’s mother, was an Indigenous leader.

It was in part down to the local knowledge of the children and Indigenous adults involved in the search alongside Colombian troops that the youths were ultimately found alive despite the threats of jaguars and snakes, and relentless downpours which may have prevented them from hearing possible calls from search parties.

‘The survival of the children is a sign of the knowledge and relationship with the natural environment that is taught starting in the mother’s womb,’ according to the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia.

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