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Andes Mountains plane crash survivor says cannibalism wasn’t worst part of ordeal

A chilling film recently premiered on Netflix: Society of the Snow, depicting the 1972 plane crash involving 45 people — including an amateur rugby team from Uruguay — in the South American wilderness.

The film depicts the 72 nightmarish days survivors spent between the crash and their ultimate rescue. It’s well-known that the 16 survivors were forced to eat deceased passengers to survive. But survivor Roberto Canessa, who was 19 at the time of the crash, told Good Morning Britain on Friday that resorting to cannibalism wasn’t the worst part of the ordeal.

“The people that look from the story from outside, they think that eating our dead friends was the worst part,” Mr Canessa said. “But it was the avalanche. I mean, I was buried alive for five or six minutes thinking that I was dying. We were buried there for four days.”

The plane crashed in the snowy Andes mountains in October 1972. Mr Canessa was a medical student at the time. He previously told ABC News: “I was thrown with an incredible force, and as I was fainting, I was realising that I was alive, and the plane had stopped.”

Now a paediatric cardiologist, Mr Canessa said the experience taught him a valuable lesson about overcoming challenges.

“From that all, I learned in life when you want something you must just face where you’re going, don’t think about success and failure, begin walking and every step is a step,” he told Good Morning Britain.

The infamous crash has been the subject of several films, documentaries and books before January’s Society of the Snow. Mr Canessa’s fellow survivors have also spoken out about their experience.

Survivor Nando Parrado told The Guardian the crash knocked him unconscious for three days. Two of his family members died before he woke up, while his sister was gravely injured.

“I stayed with her,” Mr Parrado said. “I melted snow with my mouth and gave her water because we didn’t have anything. We didn’t have cups.”

Mr Parrado’s sister died eight days later, and rescue crews found the survivors on 22 December 1972.

Mr Canessa urged viewers of Good Morning Britain to see Society of the Snow to learn about their journey over 50 years ago.

“After the film... everyone is speechless because how they’re portraying the experience is very important,” Mr Canessa said.