Nando Parrado, one of 16 ‘Miracle in the Andes’ survivors, to present next month at Lake Tahoe
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In a blink of an eye, I was dead, out for days.
That’s how Nando Parrado described the moment when Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 — which was carrying him, his fellow rugby teammates, and his mother and sister — crashed in the remote Andes Mountains on Oct. 13, 1972.
“Initially, we had hope of a rescue,” Parrado said in a recent interview. “We heard on the ninth day via a radio transmitter the search had been called off. I knew at that moment matters were in our own hands.”
Survivors of the crash — alone, exposed to temperatures of minus-30 degrees Fahrenheit and with little food — worked together and used what was available to stay alive.
Nearly two months after the crash, Parrado, then 21 years old, and fellow teammate, 19-year-old Roberto Canessa, trekked for 10 days over seemingly impassable 14,000-foot peaks to find help.
“Those were the most intense days,” Parrado recalled. “We trekked 80 miles. There were many false summits.”
On the 10th day, he and Canessa came across a man on a horse, which ultimately led to the group’s rescue after 72 days stranded in the Andes.
Of the 45 people aboard the charter flight when it took off from Montevideo, Uruguay, only Parrado and 15 others survived the whole ordeal.
More than a quarter of the passengers died in the crash, others succumbed to cold and injuries, and another eight were killed in an avalanche that swept over their shelter.
Parrado’s mother and sister were among those who died.
“It is considered by many to be the greatest survival story of all time, but really, it is a love story,” Parrado said. “I wanted to get home to my father. I tell young people all the time, when you are alone and dying on the top of a mountain, you do not miss your car or your stereo — you miss the loving embrace of your family.”
Parrado will share that love story and detail his experience in the Andes during a public presentation Monday, Aug. 10, at Sand Harbor State Park as part of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s Monday Night Showcase.
“This event is a very rare opportunity to see Nando Parrado and learn firsthand how his caring and generous nature, together with his indomitable spirit, sustained him and helped him save both himself and a number of his teammates,” said event organizer and Incline Village resident Elyse Gut. “This is a very unique and special opportunity to learn the difficult lessons of the value of life, love and relationships.”
His speech will serve as a fundraising event for Tahoe Family Solutions, a local nonprofit providing low to no cost services to children and families of North Lake Tahoe. Gut sits on the nonprofit’s board of directors.
TFS will use the funds raised toward programs in affordable mental health care, its summer Camp Explore and educational materials for its Homework Help Club.
As of Tuesday evening, tickets for the presentation were still available, with about 400 sold, Gut said. Tickets will be sold until the start of the presentation.
Cost for a single ticket ranges from $50 to $125 depending on seat location, with tables going for $250 (seats two) to $500 (seats four).
“Nando Parrado has the innate ability to infuse his experiences and messages into your heart and soul,” said TFS board member Lee Weber Koch. “His legendary tale gave me a greater respect for life, which in turn, fueled my own passion to do more with what I have been given on earth.”
Following Parrado’s keynote address, which is expected to last an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, there will be a 30-minute Q-and-A session and book signing opportunity.
Parrado is the New York Times bestselling author of “Miracle in the Andes.” This story was also documented in the book “Alive,” written by Piers Paul Read, which was later made into a movie of the same title, released in 1993 with actor Ethan Hawke portraying Parrado.
The books and movie detail the harsh struggles Parrado and others faced, including the survivors’ tough decision to feed on bodies of dead passengers that had been preserved in the snow.
When asked what he hopes people take away from his tale, Parrado last week said: “I know we all have our own Andes. I hope my story will give someone else perspective as they work through their own challenges.”
The last time Parrado made a public presentation in Incline Village was in September 2007 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.