When a plane crashed in the jungles of Columbia in May, four siblings ranging in age from one to 13 were stranded in the wilderness and survived a shocking 40 days before authorities were able to locate them.
The deadly crash left the pilot, the children’s mother, and other passengers dead, leaving Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 13, Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9, Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, 4, and infant Cristin Ranoque Mucutuy to fend for themselves in the wilds of the Amazon jungle. A massive search effort quickly commenced, with more than a hundred Colombian special forces troops and 70 indigenous scouts combing the area, but for weeks all they turned up were “tantalizing clues.”
Finally, against all odds, the kids were discovered alive in June; the children have since been evacuated and treated, and they were all recently released from the hospital.
It’s an incredible story that highlights the bravery of these young children and the herculean efforts of the desperate searchers. But there’s one more side to it, and it concerns a dog—namely, a six-year-old Belgian Shepard named Wilson, without whose efforts these kids might not ever have been found.
Interestingly, “Wilson” is the name of the volleyball that comforted actor Tom Hanks in the hit movie “Castaway” in which his character was stranded on an island and his imagined friend gave him hope.
However, unlike Hanks’ visions in the movie, this version of Wilson was very much alive. It seems that he found the kids before anyone else:
After their rescue, the children told of how Wilson had been with them before they were found by the Army and indigenous volunteers. They had also drawn heartfelt pictures of the hero pup.
Earlier, he had led his guide to the downed aircraft before breaking his leash and then dashing off to find the kids. It’s likely that when he located them, he gave them hope and strength as they struggled to survive, and his presence let them know that help was on the way.
Unfortunately, despite his heroic efforts to find the children, Wilson himself apparently got disoriented by the treacherous terrain, and he disappeared into the Amazon jungle. He has not been seen since. The Columbian army did everything it could to locate him:
Special Forces commander General Pedro Sanchez said in Bogota: ‘Wilson is one of our commandos. We have done absolutely everything within our reach, we have spared no efforts to find him, but we are aware that it is practically unlikely that we can find him.’
The tribute, which was attended by President Gustavo Petro, was part of an award ceremony for Wilson’s mother, Drugia.
General Sanchez told those present: ‘Wilson will be remembered in our hearts and in the soul of the Colombian people, as we will do with the other canines and with our soldiers and police officers who have sacrificed their lives.’
The tweet below was from when the search was still active; it has since sadly been called off.
A search is still underway for a Colombian army rescue dog that helped to find four children missing for 40 days in the Amazon jungle. Wilson, a Belgian Shepherd, disappeared during the search after finding several clues that indicated the children’s survival. #Columbia #dog… pic.twitter.com/oZHzUYYVO6
— Satluj (@SatlujTV) June 13, 2023
Wilson stood out from an early age:
Wilson was the strongest puppy of five born to Drugia and was raised among military personnel. He trained for 14 months at the School of Military Engineers…
‘He was the dog we were looking for: strong, not afraid, very curious,’ Edgar Fontecha, instructor at the canine training centre, said according to El Espectador.
‘He was the true hero because he beat the communications between the jungle and pulled his guide towards the wreckage of the aircraft’, the military said.
“It’s possible the animals in the jungle devoured him,” a soldier who served with Wilson the rescue dog said. “There are big animals, like boas and jaguars. And the dog didn’t have any food, just the water in the jungle.” https://t.co/VlQmK2njII
— Juan Forero (@WSJForero) July 12, 2023
Although the Columbian military has now ended the search effort, and it seems unlikely that Wilson will ever be found, it was also unlikely that four young children would have survived alone in the jungle for that long—and yet they did. I like to imagine that Wilson is roaming the area, using his considerable skills to stay alive. But if not, he was nevertheless a hero pooch and four young lives might have been lost without his efforts. Godspeed, Wilson.
This is part of a series about everyday heroes that don’t necessarily make the front pages. It’s a chance to talk about something other than Joe’s mumblings and Hunter’s depravity.
I’m inviting readers to send me stories of people they know or who they’ve read about who have done heroic acts—large or small, physical or otherwise—that have made someone’s life better or saved them from danger. Please email me with any tips at [email protected] or DM me on Twitter. Thanks!
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