(CNN) — The eldest of four survivors of a plane crash in the Amazon jungle has been praised for her “heroic role” in keeping her siblings alive during the ordeal, her grandfather said, as search efforts focus on tracking down Wilson, a search and rescue missing dog who kept him company.
The Mucutuy children, aged 1 to 13, survived in dense jungle for more than a month after their plane crashed on May 1, killing their mother Magdalena Mucutuy Valencia, the pilot and another passenger.
In recordings shared online by the Colombian Ministry of Defense, the children’s grandfather, Narciso Mucutuy, detailed how 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy cared for his younger siblings during the traumatic experience.
“When he looked up and saw that his mother was dead, he saw his little sister’s foot and he pulled them out,” she said.
She also said that the girl Cristin survived thanks to her older sister who slowly fed her from the bottle until it ran out, adding that she also gave her water.
The children, including Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9, and Tien Ranoque Mucutuy, 4, survived on eating fariña, a coarse cassava flour commonly used by indigenous tribes in the Amazon region, authorities said on Saturday.
Authorities attributed the children’s ability to survive to their indigenous heritage. “It’s learning about indigenous families, learning about life in the jungle that saved them,” said Colombian President Gustavo Petro.
The children had initially waited near the crash site for four days, waiting to be rescued, the grandfather said, but they moved on and left marks where they slept, hoping someone would find them.
Mucutuy says Lesly told her she had no idea where they were going and ultimately couldn’t keep walking. At that point, the children decided to wait for “the miracle that finally happened,” she said.
During their ordeal, the children had seen movement in the jungle but “they hid when they saw helicopters or people from the community or members of the military because they thought they could punish them.”
At one point, the children met Wilson, a special forces search dog who “became their faithful friend and accompanied them on several occasions,” said their grandfather.
Wilson, a Belgian Shepherd, went missing during search operations and was last seen on May 18, according to authorities. The children “spent three or four days with Wilson and said they found him rather thin,” said Colombian military forces spokesman Pedro Arnulfo Sánchez Suárez.
Finding it is now the main goal of the army.
We have a saying, “We never leave an object,” except for the four kids, we wouldn’t leave Wilson. But we are also aware of how difficult it is to find it in the depths of a hostile but blessed jungle,” Suárez said.
The four children are currently hospitalized in Bogotá, where they were transferred on Saturday by air ambulance.
His disappearance triggered a massive army-led search operation involving more than 100 Colombian Special Forces soldiers and more than 70 indigenous scouts who scoured the jungle.
Hopes of their survival dwindled as the weeks passed, but eventually the four were found in an area cleared of trees.
His father, Manuel Ranoque, who had collaborated in the search operations, told the press on leaving the hospital that he had never lost hope.
“I believe in the jungle, which is our mother, and that’s why I’ve always kept the faith, and I’d say both the jungle and nature have never failed me,” Ranoque said.
Doctors expect the babies to remain under observation in hospital for up to three weeks.