Father of Colombia plane crash children arrested amid custody battle

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Colombian authorities have arrested Manuel Ranoque, the father of two of the four Indigenous children who survived a plane crash in June. The four siblings were rescued by Colombian soldiers almost 40 days after their plane crashed in the Amazon rainforest on May 1st. While the reason for Ranoque’s arrest was not disclosed, he has previously faced allegations of domestic abuse from the children’s maternal grandfather.

Astrid Eliana Cáceres, director of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, stated that they believe the prosecutor’s office has acted within the confines of the law. Ranoque is the father of one-year-old Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy and four-year-old Tien Noriel Ranoque Mucutuy, as well as the stepfather of 13-year-old Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy and nine-year-old Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy. He has been involved in a custody battle for the children.

The children’s grandfather has accused Ranoque of abusing their mother, who was on the plane that crashed and passed away four days later. He claims that the children would often hide in the forest to escape beatings when Ranoque was intoxicated. Reports from earlier in June state that Ranoque’s father-in-law said, “Once, he hit my daughter with a machete. Another time, Lesly hid in the forest with her siblings for three days to protect them from the beatings when [Ranoque] arrived home with alcohol breath and started hitting them without mercy.”

Although Ranoque acknowledged that there were some issues at home before his arrest, he considered them to be private matters. When asked if he had assaulted his wife, he responded, “Verbally all of a sudden, yes. Physically, very little, because we did more fight of words.”

The four siblings have been under the custody of Colombia’s child protection agency since leaving the hospital. They were traveling with their mother in a Cessna 206 plane to meet Ranoque in Bogotá when the crash occurred near the Guaviare province. Their mother and the pilot died in the accident.

According to El Tiempo, Ranoque, who is related to a local political leader, had to flee his community on foot due to threats from criminal groups in the area. He made his way through the jungle and eventually arrived in Bogotá. He found a job and saved money for a month and a half to bring his family from their remote community to the capital.

The 40-day search for the children captured the attention of Colombia after it was discovered that they had survived the crash. The plane was found two weeks later in the rainforest, and while the remains of the adults on board were located, the children were not. The children managed to survive by eating cassava flour, seeds, and fruits they found in the rainforest, as they belonged to the Huitoto Indigenous group.

Rescuers used helicopters to drop food supplies and planes to illuminate the ground at night with flares. They also played a recorded message from the children’s grandmother, urging them to stay in one place. On June 9th, the children were finally found and transported to Bogotá and then to a military hospital.

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