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Survivor Stories
José Miguel Larenas Mahn - Chilé

I am 24 years old. Two days after my last day ever in high school, on December 1994, my friends and I decided to go to the "Tatio Geysers" in the Andes Mountains. On the way, we saw a car accident by the road and I gave them life support. After we rescued the people of that accident I drove to San Pedro to get medical assistance for the injured people. Once they were safe, I guided the Police to the place were the accident took place. The Police asked for my help to get the car to the road because I was driving a four-wheel drive pick up truck. Then I drove out from the public road to the sand of the Desert and started the manoeuvres. Approximately at 10 am we decided to abandon the manoeuvres. I was the last to try to get out of the sand, everybody left to San Pedro but one Policeman, one friend and me. When I tried to go back to the public road an explosive ignited under my left rear wheel. My truck flew 5 meters and caught fire. Only God knows why I am alive.

I waited for one hour laying on the Atacama Desert while the policeman tried to stop the bleeding and my friend ran to San Pedro to get help. Thank God a pick up truck appeared and they drove me to Chuquicamata. In the middle of the trip we found another vehicle with a Doctor who was there to help the people in the first accident, the one I was helping too. They stopped to see me. The Doctor climbed into the pick up, and he saw me but my arm was covering my face. He said, "Please call the father of this boy." Then I moved my right arm to uncover my face and he saw me. I was his child; he was my father.

I had 15 surgeries in Chuquicamata and Santiago, the capital. The doctors saved part of my arm.

In 1995, I started investigating the area by myself, saying I was I journalist to get into restricted areas to get pictures and films showing the existence of land mines and UXO´s in public places. There were tons of projectiles, grenades, mines AP, mines AT and much more. I thought I may be the first who actually takes legal proceedings against the Government for abandoned explosives but surely I am not the first involved in an accident with explosives. So I drove into the Desert asking the people if they know something about more accidents. Wow! I found so many poor people who were seriously injured and they swear that people from the government or the military promised them that they would help, but they did not, they just lost all the evidence that the accidents ever happened. They even threatened victims who cannot protect themselves.

I have to let others know the truth by the handwriting or the voice of the victims, not by the Government’s. There were not many people willing to hear what I had to say; it was too dangerous and complicated. I worked alone until 1998 when I met Elir Rojas. We have been working together to get the job done, even when there is no one willing to help us, even when we have to spend our free time or my studying time, even when people say they are going to help us and they do not, even when they say they are going to support us and they do not. We just do it because is morally right.

View the next profile: Armando Fabián Hernández

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