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His plane crashed in the Amazon. Then came the hard part.

Since becoming a pilot nine years earlier, Antônio Sena had heard countless stories about fatal crashes. But while his plane scraped a few trees and then smashed into the ground, Sena realized something exhilarating as he rolled to a halt: He had survived.

March 29, 2021 / 02:46 PM IST
FILE -- An arial view of an illegal gold mine in the rainforest in Brazil’s Pará state, Aug. 12, 2020. A Brazilian pilot working for wildcat miners escaped death when his plane went down in a remote area — he walked through the jungle for 36 days before being rescued. (Victor Moriyama/The New York Times)

FILE -- An arial view of an illegal gold mine in the rainforest in Brazil’s Pará state, Aug. 12, 2020. A Brazilian pilot working for wildcat miners escaped death when his plane went down in a remote area — he walked through the jungle for 36 days before being rescued. (Victor Moriyama/The New York Times)

Manuela Andreoni

RIO DE JANEIRO — The pilot was 3,000 feet over the Amazon, flying a small propeller plane on his maiden assignment for wildcat miners deep in the forest, when the lone engine cut out.

He took a deep breath and scanned the vast emerald green canopy below. He had about five minutes, he calculated, to bring down the plane and its highly flammable cargo: 160 gallons of diesel fuel.

He reported his imminent crash over a portable radio to whoever might be listening, noting that he was about halfway to his destination, a mine known as California.