Antonio Sena was flying solo, 3,000ft above the Amazon rainforest, when the engine of his tiny propeller plane cut out. “He took a deep breath,” says Manuela Andreoni in The New York Times, “and scanned the vast emerald green canopy below” for somewhere to land the plane and its highly flammable cargo – 160 gallons of diesel. Miraculously, he survived the crash deep in the Brazilian jungle. He grabbed a penknife, a torch, some lighters and a barely charged phone before scrambling out of the cockpit. “Moments later” the plane burst into flames.
At first he thought his best chance of survival was to wait by the wreckage, but when rescue planes circled overhead in the days that followed, they “flew right over, but couldn’t see me”. So he switched on his dying phone “one final time” to check a GPS app, then set off towards the River Paru, about 60 miles away. It turned into a 36-day trek through the rainforest – “home to jaguars, venomous insects and anacondas” – with Sena “slogging through swamps and ducking under vines” in the mornings, then building his night-time shelters each afternoon. He was frequently attacked by spider monkeys – “very territorial” – but learnt from watching them which fruits were safe to eat.