Omayra Sánchez [1985]

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Omayra Sánchez was one of the 25,000 victims of the Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) volcano which erupted on November 14, 1985. The 13-year old had been trapped in water and concrete for 3 days. The picture was taken shortly before she died and it caused controversy due to the photographer’s work and the Colombian government’s inaction in the midst of the tragedy, when it was published worldwide after the young girl’s death.

Omayra Sánchez [1985]

Photographer: Frank Fournier

Bonus video:

30 thoughts on “Omayra Sánchez [1985]

  1. Sadly, there was no way to save this precious child’s life. As hard as it is for people to accept that-it is the truth. They did try to get her out, somewhere right below her hips she was trapped in concrete. It is sad to watch the video of her, it is sad to see the pictures. But in the end they did what they could and made her comfortable and reassured her everything was going to be okay. I have seen medics (when a young person/child is dying) reassure them that things will be fine and that its okay to go to sleep. Its a calming factor…but for younger people/kids it works…

  2. I don’t believe rescuers couldn’t do nothing for save her. It’s impossible, they had 3 DAYS. Why they didn’t start to escavate with their hands? Some videos show recuers were smoking while she was in the bog… what kind of rescuers was they?

  3. we all agree that IF something could have been done, it should have. but sadly there was no chance of saving this beautiful young child. i’ve read several articles and interviews that relate. her legs were trapped under concrete, they would have needed a crane to move. and even then, due to the pressure on her legs toxins would have built up in her blood and once the pressure was gone those toxins would be rushing through her bloodstream and she’d still die. once he realized there was nothing that could be done, fournier stayed with her and took photographs. he felt the government held blame for not doing having an evacuation plan or anything when they knew the volcano would erupt. as horrifying as this image is, it brought about a response.

  4. i think all u guys blaming the photographer are all wrong!! he could not do ANYTHING to help her..the people u guys should blame is the government of Colombia for not doing anything at fist when they knew the volcano would erupt sooner or later.

  5. This is really depressing because its so sad and tragic.One thing that first caught my eye,someone mentioned it as well,i wonder why her eyes are so pitch black?

  6. This is a horrific picture of a beautiful young girl. I don’t think there was anything though that anyone could have done unless they had something to break away the concrete that was embracing the lower half of her body. It’s not the photographer’s fault. How helpless she must have felt. It’s a sad story but at least the girl did not die alone. She was able to say her last goodbyes and was comforted in her final moments. I want to say thank you to Catherine, (Jan 15th). Your comment hits the nail on the head. Images like these wake up people and bring people together. It’s sad though that it always takes heartache and death to motivate change.

  7. I’ve read all of the comments and I agree with Roger. However, one of the first things that struck me when I saw this was her eyes….why are they totally black? It is very striking.

  8. Its always funny for me to read “oh, I would have done something, I would have dropped the camera and saved her”

    I can see if taking the picture VS saving a life is the issue, but just like in the picture of the mother and daughter falling from a fire stair, there is absolutely nothing the photographer could have done but document the event.

    High impact pictures like these, serve to inspire and create radical reactions. I think this is more valuable than just staring.

    This girl was trapped, rescuers were doing their best to save her, but her feet with trapped in the rubble of a river that flooded their home due to the eruption of a volcano.

    This is my translation of the news clip:

    Young man: “All the river, with bars and all, and right now, I am a little….”
    Reporter: “According to the only official estimations of the government, the number of deaths is of 21,569 and the wounded and displaced are 20,000″
    Omayra Sanchez: “In what news program do you work”
    Muffled male voice: “This is for Spanish Television [from Spain], but it runs in every news programs. Hold on and keep your spirit, you’ll see how they take you out of there soon”
    Omayra Sanchez: “Please, I want to say some words”
    Muffled male voice: “Yes, go ahead”
    Omayra Sanchez: “Mother, if you are listening, I think you are. Pray so I can walk and these people can help me. Mommy; daddy, brother and I love you very much. Good bye mother.”

  9. Hey I think this picture is trully horriffying.
    however if it had’nt been taken this incedent would probably gone by without anyone knowing the true horror of the tragedy

  10. OMG, it’s like she knew she would die. i dont understand that much spanish but she said “mother , i love you very much” this is very sad.

  11. Okaay why wasn’t this photographer helping this poor helplesss child? The poor thing. She looks loke she’s pleading for help, but can’t really say or do anything…poor baby.

  12. Damn, that makes me sad. Poor little girl, helpless, saying her last “goodbyes” to her mother, father and brother, telling them she’s loves them a lot. This is a really sad picture.

  13. I can never forget her look and I have seen the sequence of photos when many had tried to help her even make her smile at one point. What can I do? I finally become a humanitarian worker for the past 2 years ever since the Tsunami in 2004. The girl will always be my inspiration to continue with my work in emergency respond situation.

  14. I believe every one in the site would try their best to rescue the girl if appropriate, including the photographer. However, look at her hands and eyes, she must be poisoned and it would be a sad story to tell afterwards.

    The photographer had already her best to save more people in the country by publishing the photo.

  15. Yeah, i too find this terribly sad. But i just read the short story And of Clay Are We Created and it explained a lot. I still find it terrible they werent able to get the poor girl out :[

  16. I think this site is more than just World Famous Photos, but also World Idiots. People will tell the most stupid things not reading the photo description nor repeating people about the fact the girl was TRAPPED without ANY HOPE of being rescued, there were paramedics there and they could do nothing. The only thing that someone could have done to “save” her would probably be shot her out of her misery. After three days trapped it was a relief she dyed, I could not imagine how hard it would be if she survived more days into that. As jm mentioned, not only they would need to amputate her legs, but there were no hospital nearby anyway and Colombian government was pretty much not there at all.

  17. For those who have not read the whole story — there was a way to get her out from under the concrete in the water-filled hole. They could have pulled her with such force that it would have ripped her legs off (remember, her legs were trapped under concrete). Of course, given that the water was contaminated, she probably would have died later from infection — never mind the pain of having her legs ripped off. Hard to accept, but maybe it was wise to just comfort her until she died.

  18. Angela, have you not been paying attention? Her lower half is trapped by fallen concrete. Unless the photographer was going to whip out his surgical tools and bisect her, there was very little to do for her.

  19. Well I still don’t understand how he could just stand there and not help that helpless beautiful little girl……. some people will do anything just to get a story. HE”S A JACKASS!!

  20. In Armero tragedy, died 23.000, Omayra was trapped by a concrete stoneware, the only way to take her off was cutting her legs, but in the middle of a mud pit it was very difficult, and the magnitude of tragedy, the rescue teams was not enough, remember, an avalanche of mud cover the entire town, died 23.000.

  21. i’ve heard that people did try to rescue this girl
    when they couldn’t, they just made her comfortable and let her die peacefully

  22. Dear there might be no way that photographer can help the girl…..
    She might be trapped somewhere down… and who knows he tried or not after taking picture….

  23. I am a photographer too. I know it is a great picture but I never appreciate this, because I would immediately try to rescure the girl, rather than taking picture in front of a helpless life.I cant imagine how the girl feel before she dies. really sad. what a cold blood photographer.

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