Days after four children who were missing for 40 days in the Colombian jungle were found alive, details of their ordeal are still being made public.
According to reports, the children's father, Manuel Ranoque, said his eldest daughter told him their mother urged them to "get out" and save themselves after their plane crashed in the Amazon rainforest.
The children were left stranded in the jungle after their plane travelling between Araracuara and San Jose del Guaviare crashed on May 1, killing all three adults onboard.
The siblings, aged 13, nine, five, and one, were rescued and airlifted out of the jungle last week. They were moved to a military hospital in the nation's capital Bogota. According to reports, a custody battle has started among their relatives, with the father of two of them facing accusations of domestic violence.
The maternal grandparents are vying with the father for custody of the two youngest children.
Earlier, members of the rescue group said in a televised interview that "I'm hungry" and "my mom is dead" were the first words uttered by the children when they were found.
"The eldest daughter, Lesly, with the little one in her arms, ran towards me. Lesly said: 'I'm hungry,'" said Nicolas Ordonez Gomes, one of the search and rescue crew. "One of the two boys was lying down. He got up and said to me: 'My mom is dead.'"
"We immediately followed up with positive words, saying that we were friends, that we were sent by the family, the father, the uncle. That we were family!" Ordonez Gomes added.
In a video which showed the children soon after they were found, the kids seemed to be emaciated from their time spent in the wilderness. Wandering alone for more than a month, the Huitoto indigenous children faced significant challenges surviving in the inhospitable environment.
The eldest sibling, Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, has been praised for her “heroic role” in keeping her siblings alive throughout the ordeal, their grandfather Narciso Mucutuy said, as search efforts turn to locating Wilson, a missing search and rescue dog who kept them company.
In clips shared online by the Colombian Defense Ministry, Narciso talks about how the 13-year-old Lesly cared for her younger siblings during the traumatic ordeal.
“The baby Cristin survived because of her older sister feeding her slowly from the bottle until the bottle ran out,” he said, adding that she had also given the baby water.
The children, who included Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9, and Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, 4, survived by eating farina - a coarse cassava flour commonly used by indigenous tribes in the Amazon region - found in the plane, and seeds from various fruits in the jungle. The children’s survival skills and their knowledge of their indigenous heritage led to their sustained survival, officials said.
Wilson, a Special Forces search dog who “became their faithful friend and accompanied them on several occasions,” according to their grandfather, has also gone missing in the jungle. The Belgian Shepherd went missing during the search operations and was last seen on May 18, according to officials.
The bodies of the pilot, the children's mother and another adult were all found at the crash site, where the plane sat almost vertical in the trees.
General Pedro Sanchez, who led the search operation, credited Indigenous people involved in the rescue effort with finding the children.
"We found the children: miracle, miracle, miracle!" he told reporters.
Army chief Helder Giraldo said rescuers had covered more than 2,600 kilometers (1,650 miles) to locate the children. "Something that seemed impossible was achieved," Giraldo said on Twitter.
In addition to the jaguars, snakes and other predators, the area is also home to armed drug smuggling groups.