(CNN) — Manuel Ranoque, the father of the four children who survived in the Colombian jungle for 40 days after a small plane crash, told CNN in an interview Tuesday in Bogotá that his children’s story is a “miracle” and a “rarity.” “.
“This is God’s work. They lived by their own effort and from spiritual food,” Ranoque said in front of the cameras at the headquarters of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, located in the country’s capital.
The Mucutuy children, ranging in age from 1 to 13, survived in the dense jungle for more than a month after the small plane they were traveling in crashed on May 1. His mother, Magdalena Mucutuy Valencia, the pilot of the aircraft and another passenger died in the accident.
Ranoque is the biological father of Mucutuy’s two youngest children, ages 1 and 3, and stepfather of the two older brothers.
“This was my dream the whole time,” Ranoque told CNN of seeing her children for the first time.
“By the time we found the children, we had started to see thunder and lightning. We left at the right time; ten minutes later and the helicopter would not have been able to take us,” she said.
Ranoque says she was one of the last 16 people still looking for the children after most rescue teams called off.
The father says indigenous cultural knowledge was the key to finding the children.
“We surpassed the technology because I don’t know how many planes came (to help with the rescue), but between us we decided to go to the field and we did it and we did it,” he says.
The four children remain in a Bogotá hospital, recovering.
The disappearance of the children deep in the jungle prompted a massive military-led search operation, involving more than 100 Colombian special forces soldiers and more than 70 indigenous scouts combing the area.
The jungle where they were looking for the children is between the departments of Guaviare and Caquetá, the border between the Amazon region, in Colombia, a vast jungle area, and the Eastern Plains, sparsely populated territories, difficult to access, where historically there have been presence of insurgent groups.
During days of searching, which included airborne survival kits and voicemails from the children’s grandmother, there were only a few clues, including footprints, a dirty diaper and a bottle. Family members said the eldest daughter had some experience in the woods, but hopes were fading as the weeks passed.
But then, the miracle happened: Lesly Mucutuy, 13 years old; Soleiny Mucutuy, 9 years old; Tien Noriel Ranoque Mucutuy, who completed 5 years in the jungle, and Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy, who also completed one year in the jungle, appeared alive.
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Father of the four children rescued in the Colombian jungle speaks to CNN: “It’s a miracle”