The father of two of the four Indigenous children who survived a plane crash that killed their mother and two other adults, then survived 40 days on their own in the Amazon jungle, has been arrested, Colombian authorities said.
Manuel Ranoque, the father of the one and four-year-old boys in the crash and the stepfather of the two girls, aged nine and 13 was detained by officials, the Colombian prosecutor’s office confirmed.
Although no details were given on the reason for his arrest, local media reports said the case involved allegations of domestic abuse.
The children’s miraculous survival captured imaginations around the world after they beat the odds to survive for over a month in the inhospitable jungle.
They had been missing in the jungle since a Cessna 206 carrying seven people on a route between Araracuara, in Caqueta, and San Jose del Guaviare, a city in Guaviare province, issued a mayday alert due to engine failure in the early hours of May 1.
Three adults, including the pilot and the children’s mother, died in the crash and their bodies were found inside the plane.
A massive rescue effort, named Operation Hope, was launched to save the children after it was discovered they had survived the crash and had been living in the jungle using skills taught to them by their mother.
Following their rescue, Fidencio Valencia, one of the children’s uncles, told media outlet Noticias Caracol that they hid in tree trunks to protect themselves in a jungle area filled with snakes, animals and mosquitoes.
The four siblings have remained in the custody of Colombia’s child protection agency since leaving hospital after recovering from malnutrition and other ailments.
Ranoque has become embroiled in a fight for custody of the children with their maternal grandparents, who have accused him of beating their mother, Magdalena Mucutuy.
Astrid Eliana Caceres, director of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, said the state agency had been working with the authorities to handle the case.
‘We learned of the capture of the father of two Mucutuy minor children and we believe that the prosecutor’s office has operated within the full framework of the law,’ she said.
Before authorities confirmed his arrest, Ranoque acknowledged to reporters that there had been problems at home, but he said he considered it a private family matter and not ‘gossip’ for the rest of the world.
When asked if he had assaulted his wife, Ranoque replied: ‘Verbally all of a sudden, yes. Physically, very little.’
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