In Netflix’s ‘Society of the Snow,’ the voice of Numa Turcatti guides the audience through the events surrounding the crash of Flight 571 and the following couple of months in which the survivors try their best to stay alive long enough for the rescue to arrive. Numa becomes the heart of the story, opening up to the audience about his hopes as well as hopelessness during the dark time that the passengers go through. Despite trying his best to get out of the mountains, he doesn’t succeed and eventually dies. What was the cause of his death, and how old was he when he died?
Numa Turcatti was the Last Crash Survivor to Die
Born on October 30, 1947, Numa Turcatti was a 24-year-old law student when he boarded Flight 571 from Montevideo, Uruguay. He was not on the rugby team but tagged along with his friends who were on it. He wasn’t familiar with most of the players on the team in the beginning, but in the two months that he spent trapped in the Andes, he got to know all of them very well. He is remembered by the survivors as one of “the toughest and fittest” of them. His name is uttered with respect, and his friends have fond memories of him.
When the plane crashed, Turcatti was one of the survivors who didn’t sustain any injuries from the crash. He was also quick to pick up responsibilities and help ensure the survival of his fellow passengers. He was also highly motivated to leave the valley by hiking up and finding a way out of the mountains. In fact, he tried his hand at it two times. He was one of the three survivors (with Roberto Canessa and Gustavo Zerbino) to embark on the first expedition out of the valley.
At the time, the survivors didn’t have enough idea of their location and had no resources that would support their trip. Turcatti, Canessa, and Zerbino hiked for two days to the top of a 14,000-foot mountain and barely made it back after seeing snow-covered peaks all around them. Turcatti joined the expedition again with Canessa, Antonio Vizintin, and Nando Parrado but could not continue because of an injury on his leg that was badly infected. Because the survivors had no antibiotics or any other medicine to treat the infection, it took hold of Turcatti and rendered him weaker by the day.
Another thing that weakened Turcatti’s body was his inability to eat human flesh. When the other survivors mutually agreed to eat the dead bodies while offering their own in return if they died, Turcatti was one of the few who opposed them and resisted eating flesh for as long as possible. Even when he was forced to eat because there was no other option, Turcatti could never get used to the idea and struggled with eating, which only deteriorated his condition.
According to one of the survivors, Turcatti “suddenly lost heart” after the infection worsened his state. He completely stopped eating, secretly throwing away the flesh his friends were giving him to eat. They tried to force-feed him, hoping to keep him alive that way, but it didn’t work. At one point, it seemed like he had given up both mentally and physically. Two weeks before the rescue arrived, Turcatti succumbed to his illness on December 11, 1972, 60 days after the crash. He was 25 years old when he died, having spent his last birthday buried under the snow inside the fuselage after the avalanche had hit them the night before. He weighed around 55 pounds at the time of his death.
While Turcatti refused to eat the flesh of his fellow passengers, he seemed to have given his consent to have his own body eaten to help his friends survive through a note that was found in his hand after his death. The note had a passage from the Bible that said: “There is no greater love than that which gives one’s life for one’s friends.” With the rest of the victims (except Rafael Echavarren), Turcatti’s remains were buried in a common grave at the crash site where, today, a memorial stands in remembrance of the victims.