The skeletal remains of an aircraft, uncovered on a remote beach along a river in Ecuador, are believed to be the lost plane piloted by American missionaries shortly before their murder in 1956.

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) staff recently identified the remains of the Piper aircraft in an isolated Ecuadorian jungle as the plane flown by Nate Saint just before he was killed by Auca Indians in 1956.

Saint and four other missionaries were making first contact with a group of indigenous people when they were attacked with spears and killed. The moving story of their martyrdom inspired a generation of Christians around the world to enter foreign mission service.

MAF missionary Bill Clapp positively identified the remains pulled from a sandy beach along the Curaray River as being the front lower fuselage of the airplane flown by Saint. The airplane had lain buried beneath the shifting sands of Palm Beach, a small outcropping on the river, since the incident.

Clapp said that parts of the plane, including the motor, had been removed. Some portions of the craft were carried out by the recovery party, which included American military personnel stationed in Panama. Recent heavy rains and a shifting of the course of the river uncovered the lower fuselage, which was discovered by an Indian family.

Following the killing of the missionaries, four of the bodies were buried on the river bank at the site. In later years, Elisabeth Elliot, widow of Plymouth Brethren missionary Jim Elliot, and Rachel Saint, sister of Nate Saint, lived among the Auca Indians (known today as the Huaorani), providing them with basic education, health care, and the gospel. Chronicles of the martyred pilots and the ministry to the Aucas have been told in several ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.