BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) —
Colombians were tense on Friday as authorities searched for four indigenous children who were on a small plane that crashed in the Amazon jungle this month but were not found. The three adults on board died.
The crash happened in the early hours of May 1 when the Cessna single-engine propeller plane carrying six passengers and a pilot declared an emergency due to engine failure. The small plane fell off radar a short time later and a frantic search for survivors began.
Colombian troops found the wreckage on Tuesday along with the bodies of the pilot, a guide and the children’s mother. But there was no trace of the youths.
The children were identified as Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 13; Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9; Has Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy, 4; and Cristin Neriman, 11 months.
On Wednesday, there seemed to be a breakthrough when Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced via Twitter that the four children had been found alive. But all the elation vanished hours later when Petro deleted the tweet, acknowledging that the children had in fact not been found.
“I have decided to delete the tweet because the information from the ICBF (Colombian Institute for Family Welfare) could not be confirmed,” Petro wrote. “I am sorry for what happened. The armed forces and indigenous communities will continue their tireless quest to bring the country the news it is waiting for.”
Dozens of military personnel, supported by indigenous people from nearby communities, searched the area where the plane crashed.
Colombians have debated several finds during the search and whether they could be linked to the children — including a baby bottle discovered one day and a pair of scissors found the next day in what appeared to be a makeshift shelter made of leaves.
In addition, the company that owns the plane said in a statement that one of its pilots who was in the area had heard from some members of a local indigenous community that the children were heading to a village on a riverboat. But they never showed up there.
Another report said the children had boarded a boat on the Apaporis River in the direction of Cachiporro village. But the children were not on board when the boat arrived.
This version corrects that there were six passengers on the plane, not seven.