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Colombia on edge as search continues for 4 children who could have survived plane crash

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (AP) — Colombians were on edge Friday as a search continued for four Indigenous children who might have survived a deadly plane crash in the Amazon jungle 19 days ago.

The accident occurred in the early hours of May 1 when a Cessna C206 with seven passengers on board declared an emergency due to engine failure. Shortly after, the small aircraft fell off radar and a frantic search for survivors began.

Colombian troops found the wreckage Tuesday along with the bodies of three adults: the pilot, a guide and the children’s mother. But there was no sign of the youngsters.

The children, members of the Uitoto Indigenous community, were identified as Lesly Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 13; Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy, 9; Tien Noriel Ronoque Mucutuy, 4; and Cristin Neriman Ranoque Mucutuy, 11 months.

On Wednesday, there appeared to be a breakthrough when Colombian President Gustavo Petro took to Twitter to announce that the four children had been found alive. But any elation was deflated hours later when Petro deleted the tweet, acknowledging that the children had in fact not been found.

“I have decided to delete the tweet because the information provided by the ICBF (Colombian Institute of Family Welfare) could not be confirmed,” Petro wrote. “I regret what happened. The Military Forces and the Indigenous communities will continue in their tireless search to give the country the news it is waiting for.”

Dozens of military personnel, supported by Indigenous people from nearby communities, are combing the area where the plane crashed.

Colombians have been debating various finds in the search and whether they might be linked to the children, including a baby bottle discovered one day and a pair of scissors found the next day in what seemed to be a makeshift shelter of leaves.

In addition, the company that owned the plane said in a statement that one of its pilots who was in the area had heard from some members of a local Indigenous community that the children were on their way to a nearby village on board a boat that was moving along one of the rivers. That did not happen.

Another version claimed the children had boarded a boat on the Apaporis River, towards Cachiporro, an Amazonian village. However, when the boat arrived at its destination, the children were not on board.