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Op-Ed: Survivors commemorate 45 victims of Andean tragedy

Posted May 16, 2015 by Igor I. Solar
Various activities will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the so-called "Tragedy of Antuco" in which 45 soldiers of the Chilean Army died in a blizzard in the Andes Mountains during a training march which should have never taken place.
Soldiers fallen in blizzard at Antuco Volcano  Chile  May 18  2005.(Still capture from YouTube video...
Soldiers fallen in blizzard at Antuco Volcano, Chile, May 18, 2005.(Still capture from YouTube video).
Kelly Gilli
Remembrance activities
Residents of the city of Los Angeles in Chile and relatives of the victims will set up a photo exhibition in the coming days in front of civic buildings, reports BioBioChile (in Spanish). On Saturday May 16, survivors of the tragedy will recreate the fateful march along the same route traveled ten years ago by their fallen comrades on the slopes of the volcano “Antuco” and “Laguna Del Laja”, according to HoyChile (in Spanish).
The Tragedy of Antuco
On May 18, 2005, two companies of conscripts of the Reinforced Regiment No. 17 “Los Angeles” were ordered to march in the Andes under adverse weather conditions. The soldiers had no previous training, did not have proper attire, had not had sufficient rest after reaching the military base on the mountain, and had not received adequate nourishment. While the walk in the midst of the storm was underway the top official in charge of the detachment, Major Patricio Cereceda, and other officers remained at the Refuge "Los Barros" in the north-east slope of the Antuco volcano.
Search crews used long sticks to locate the bodies of soldiers buried under 80 cm of snow.(Still cap...
Search crews used long sticks to locate the bodies of soldiers buried under 80 cm of snow.(Still capture from YouTube video).
Rodrigo Freeman
Memorial ceremony at the Regiment in Los Angeles honoring the 45 victims of the Antuco tragedy.(Scre...
Memorial ceremony at the Regiment in Los Angeles honoring the 45 victims of the Antuco tragedy.(Screen capture from YouTube video).
Rodrigo Freeman
The trek, at an altitude of about 1500 meters above sea level, aimed to reach the refuge known as "La Cortina", 22 kilometers away from Los Barros. During the march, the front of bad weather intensified. The temperature dropped to 35 degrees below zero; the blizzard worsened, and freezing wind gusts of over 100 kilometers/hour blinded and disoriented the young conscripts.
Some of the soldiers managed to complete the march to "La Cortina”, others sought refuge in a mountain facility belonging to the University of Concepción. However, 44 conscripts and a sergeant froze to death along the way (see map).
Map based on Google Earth image edited to show the route of the soldiers  march from  Los Barros Ref...
Map based on Google Earth image edited to show the route of the soldiers' march from "Los Barros Refuge" to "La Cortina Refuge" in the slopes of the Antuco Volcano and Laguna del Laja (Laja Lake).
Google Earth
The tragedy caused a national upheaval in Chile. Five army officers
Major Patricio Cereceda  officer in charge of the deadly march that took the lives of 45 soldiers.
Major Patricio Cereceda, officer in charge of the deadly march that took the lives of 45 soldiers.
Antocifuentes
and two non-commissioned officers of the Los Angeles Regiment were discharged. In January 2008, Major Patricio Cereceda, the officer in charge of the activity, was found guilty of manslaughter and dereliction of duty and sentenced to five years in prison for his role in the events. Cereceda served 3 years and 9 months of his sentence, and received a conditional release in 2011.
The Wreck of SS "Cazador"
Many consider the tragedy of Antuco volcano as the greatest disaster of the Chilean Army in peacetime. That's because in the history books the horrific episode of the wreck of the steamer ship "Cazador” has been almost forgotten.
159 years ago, on January 30, 1856, the Steamer "Cazador" of the Chilean Navy, sailing in calm seas between the ports of Talcahuano and Valparaiso, sank after hitting rocks near the shore of central Chile. The sinking took the lives of 458 people. Among the victims was a company of 86 soldiers from the Maipo Regiment of Valparaíso; 42 sailors from the crew of the Cazador also perished, and over 300 civilian passengers, including more than 200 women and children, mostly relatives of the soldiers of the Maipo Regiment also died, drowned in the sea.
The ship’s commander, Captain Ramon Cabieses, was among the first officers who abandoned ship in one of the 4 lifeboats available. Trial by court martial acquitted him of his responsibility for the tragedy. Shortly after the trial, Cabieses rejoined the naval service to work as a surveyor. He subsequently held various senior positions in the Chilean Navy.
Antuco volcano (2 973 m) and waterfalls in summer.
Antuco volcano (2,973 m) and waterfalls in summer.
Mono Andes