In the early hours of May 1, a light aircraft flying over the Amazon rainforest in Colombia issued a mayday alert over an engine failure before vanishing from radar systems.
Rescue teams later found the wreckage of the Cessna 206 and three adult bodies inside—including that of Ranoque Mucutuy. But Mucutuy’s four children, which included an 11-month-old baby—were missing. On Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro shared some wonderful news.
“After arduous searching by our military, we have found alive the four children who went missing after a plane crash in Guaviare,” Petro tweeted, referring to the Colombian province where the aircraft went down. “A joy for the country.”
But local media reports soon contradicted the celebratory news. Defense sources told Colombia’s El Espectador newspaper that the three kids—aged 13, 11, and 4—and the baby had not been confirmed found.
On Thursday, the country’s Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) issued a statement about the confusion, saying that it had received information from a contact that the children had “appeared alive and in good health,” according to El Espectador, but that soldiers involved in the search “have not been able to have contact with the children” due to weather conditions and difficulties operating in the search area.
An official confirmation as to the children’s wellbeing has not yet been made as of Thursday morning. But rescue efforts were stepped up on Wednesday after a search party discovered a shelter built with sticks and branches which indicated there could have been survivors.
Authorities also published photographs online showing a hair band and a pair of scissors that were found during the search, while a baby bottle and some partially-eaten fruit were also discovered.
The family are from the Indigenous Huitoto people who live in Colombia’s south-east and the north of Peru. A message was reportedly played over the remote rainforest search area in the Huitoto language from a helicopter, in which the children’s grandmother instructed the kids to not attempt to move through the rainforest.
Over 100 soldiers have taken part in the rescue mission along with sniffer dogs. Military aircraft have also been deployed to assist the search teams on the ground moving through the dense jungle.
The crashed Cessna was carrying seven passengers on a flight between Araracuara, in Amazonas province, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province. Along with the children’s mother, the body of the pilot and another adult were found in the doomed aircraft.