"I Drank Urine To Keep Alive," Says Plane Crash Victim

Pilot and friend spent four days waiting for rescue with broken bones and no water

Vinicius Lemos

Pilot Marcelo Balestrin, 40, boarded the small single-engine at Pimenta Bueno (RO) to fly to Cuiabá (MT) on November 30th, to hitch a ride with fellow pilot John Cleiton Venera, 27. Three hours into the flight, the plane hit Mangaval Ridge, 136 miles away from Cuiabá. They were rescued four days later.

Read below Balestrin's account:

We took off at around 5 am on that Friday. John was taking the single engine for an inspection, and I came along as a passenger.

It was the first time we were doing that route. The weather was terrible, cloudy and we couldn't see the ground below. John lowered our altitude so we could get off the clouds, but then we saw the hills grow bigger in front of us. He yelled that we were going to hit them. I tried to help him to steer the plane, but it was too late. The aircraft fell on its belly and dragged on for 100 yards until it stopped altogether.

The crash knocked me out. I woke up hours later, with my right foot stuck to the rubble, and my left foot was broken. John had been thrown off under the plane's wing.

Plane crash victim Marcelo Balestrin

I felt weak and had lost a lot of blood. I had a broken jaw and an open fracture in my left arm.

It rained heavily throughout Friday and Saturday. I spent over 24 hours with my foot stuck in the plane's rubble. I found a tree branch and forced it against the aircraft's body until I was able to free myself. Then I went after John on my knees.

We had a bit of water, and the rain provided some more. John had peanuts. I couldn't eat because my jaw was broken. On Sunday, we ran out of water. We peed in a bottle and drank our urine. We knew we had to do it to survive.

On Monday (12/3), the weather cleared. We were hoping they would find us, but nothing happened that day. The next day, we heard the Airforce helicopter hovering over us.

When the rescuers saw us, I felt a wave of emotion. They put us on stretchers and flew us to Cuiabá.
I went through five surgeries. John is expected to stay in the hospital until next month. But I want to fly again in less than six months. The accident didn't discourage me from working in aviation.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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