Forty year on from the plane crash that changed his life forever, Dr Roberto Canessa still vividly remembers having to eat the flesh of friends to survive.
He was one of 16 men who escaped death when their chartered aircraft smashed into the bleak Andes mountains between Chile and Argentina on October 13, 1972.
They were rescued 72 days later after Dr Canessa, then a 19-year-old medical student, and another survivor trekked for 10 days to get help.
Saved: Survivors of the crash wave to rescue helicopters after their 72-day ordeal in the Andes
Survivors: Passengers shelter near the tail of the Uruguayan plane which hit a mountain shrouded in mist as it flew from Santiago to Montevideo
Wreckage: A body lies in snow outside the shell of the plane. It was 72 days before the 16 who survived the crash were rescued
Today, he dedicates his life to others, but has never forgotten the moment he turned cannibal and ate the flesh of one of the dead passengers.
He told the Sun: ‘It was repugnant. Through the eyes of our civilised society it was a disgusting decision. My dignity was on the floor having to grab a piece of my dead friend and eat it in order to survive.
‘But then I thought of my mother and wanted to do my best to get back to see her. I swallowed a piece and it was a huge step – after which nothing happened.’
Traumatic : Roberto Canessa when he was rescued as a 19-year-old medical student and today
Icy waste: Ten years ago Dr Canessa, centre, returned to the scene of the plane crash with survivors Conche Inciarte, left and Carlos Paez
Dr Canessa, now a top pediatric cardiologist, was one of 45 passengers including his rugby team Old Christians, aboard the Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 when it hit a mountain range shrouded in mist as it flew from Santiago to Montevideo.
Twelve men died on impact, another five within hours and one more a week later. Tragedy struck again on the 17th day of their ordeal when an avalanche killed eight more of the passengers.
The survivors had little food and no source of heat in the harsh conditions at over 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) altitude.
Faced with starvation and radio news reports that the search for them had been abandoned, those who lived fed on the dead passengers who had been preserved in the snow.
Posing: Passengers on the plane are pictured before the flight crashed into a mountain range
Alive: The sixteen who lived through the tragedy with Sergio Catalan, centre, who alerted the authorities to survivors, with Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, sixth left, next to minister of Defence Andres Allamand, fourth left
Rescuers did not learn of the survivors until 72 days after the crash when Nando Parrado and Dr Canessa, set out to find help and stumbled across Chilean Sergio Catalán,who gave them food and then alerted authorities.
Their harrowing story was told in the 1993 film Alive, but the real-life trauma of his weeks in the icy waste remains with Dr Canessa.
He told writer Tom Goodenough that the cold in his bones was like pliers being pressed down on them.
He said: ‘We were in a lifeless environment with only snow and stars up there. We were in a place not for humans and which we didn’t belong to.’
Brave: Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, centre, poses with Roberto Canessa and Nando Parrado who trekked for help
Dr Canessa’s girlfriend Laura was later to become his wife and the mother of his three children, but it was thoughts of his mother that kept him going through his ordeal.
He says he did not want his death to cause her any mental anguish and suffering.
Today he lives in Montevideo with his family and tries to enjoy every minute as a tribute to the friends who died in that desolate landscape decade ago.
Originally Published on the Daily Mail