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How 4 Kids Survived a Plane Crash and 40 Days in the Amazon Jungle

Those kids are tougher than we will ever be.

By Cassidy Ward
The cast of Race To Survive: Alaska

USA’s new competitive reality series, Race to Survive: Alaska, pits eight teams of extreme athletes against one another and the elements of the Alaskan wilderness, for a chance at half a million dollars. Over the course of the competition, teams ran, climbed, and canoed across hundreds of miles of Alaskan terrain on their way to the final finish line and the prize. Winning meant not only being the first to cross the finish line, but grappling with everything mother nature could muster. The goal was to win, but first they had to survive.

Winning a reality show is one thing, but surviving in the wilderness for real, especially when you’re just a kid, that’s next level. Recently, four children put survival experts around the world to shame when they survived in the dense Amazon jungle for 40 days. All four children were recently found alive and have been returned to their family.

How four kids survived 40 days in the Amazon jungle

The four children — Lesly, 13; Soleiny, 9; Tien Noriel, 4; and Cristin, 1 — are siblings who were traveling with their mother and two other adults aboard a single-engine Cessna, when the plane crashed in the jungle on May 1, 2023. Sixteen days later, rescuers found the bodies of all three adults onboard the downed plane, but the children were missing. Rescuers did, however, find signs they had survived: a baby bottle, a pair of children’s shoes, the leftover remains of eaten food, and tiny footprints leading into the jungle.

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After the plane went down, a massive search effort was launched, composed of 150 soldiers and search dogs flown into the area working with dozens of Indigenous volunteer trackers. They covered more than 1,600 miles of the jungle, looking for the children, dropping packages of supplies, and playing a message recorded by their grandmother. Forty days later, the kids were found in a small clearing about three miles from the crash site, malnourished and dehydrated, but alive.

Manuel Ranoque, the father of all four children — recounting events relayed to him from the eldest child, Lesly — said that their mother survived the crash and lived another four days before telling the children to leave her and take care of themselves. That might sound like a recipe for certain doom, but these kids were prepared. As members of the Indigenous Huitoto group, the children were educated in the lore and knowledge of the jungle from a young age, giving them an intimate understanding of the landscape around them. Everyone close to the story agrees that’s what allowed them to seek shelter, find food and water, and avoid danger in the Amazon jungle for more than a month.

Their background and ingrained knowledge meant that even at their young age they knew how to make a go of it in the jungle. “How to eat, how to drink, stay against the hostile jungle, and how to protect from the rain, because 16 hours a day it’s only rain,” said General Pedro Sánchez, who led the search effort, via NBC News.

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The children have now been reunited with surviving family members and are under the care of medical professionals while they recover from what was certainly a traumatic ordeal. They are expected to remain in the hospital for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the search continues for a rescue dog named Wilson. He found the children during the rescue effort but was later separated from the search party and is yet to be recovered.

Season 2 of Race to Survive should take place in the Amazon jungle and we should just call it right now. Those kids already won, give ‘em the money.

Catch the complete first season of Race to Survive: Alaska on the USA Network!

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