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Butterfly Angel Sighting

Chilean Mine Collapse 2010

Angels sometimes make appearances in desperate situations. One recent extraordinary example is that of the 'butterfly angel' who helped save the lives of two Chilean miners trapped underground in a mine in 2010.

butterfly sign of spirit
A Guardian Angel?
The mine, situated in the Atacama Desert, had a poor safety record and was unstable for many years. On 5 August 2010, it collapsed, leaving 33 men trapped 2,000 feet below ground. Eventually, after a harrowing period of 69 days, all the men were rescued. During this time, their loved ones set up a small vigil nearby, sending messages of support to the men while they waited to be rescued.

The Butterfly

While they waited, two of the miners (Jorge Galeguillos and Franklin Lobos) told their colleagues about the butterfly that had saved their life. They recounted how when the mine collapsed they were driving along another level in the mine in a pick-up truck. As they drove, Jorge noticed a small white butterfly. It was so unusual to see a butterfly down in the mine that he and his friend slowed the truck and stopped to take a look. Seconds later a slab of rock crashed down onto the road behind them, barely missing the vehicle. Had they not slowed to look at the butterfly they would have driven straight into the area where the tunnel collapsed. They would have been instantly killed in the tons of rubble that came crashing down. The friends were caught in a great avalanche of dirt and dust, which blinded them for some time. Around them, they could feel the tunnel collapsing, blocking the mineshaft between two of the levels, which set off a series of smaller rock falls further down. Terrified, Jorge and Franklin managed to drive to safety, finding their way around the rubble blocking large parts of the tunnel, until they reached the 31 other miners trapped on level 100, a safety zone only 50 sq m wide and half a mile underground.

guardian angel
Jorge Galeguillos after his rescue.

A Guardian Angel?

The miners later speculated as to how a white butterfly could find itself 500 metres below the earth. They began to wonder whether they had seen a guardian angel, who had led them to safety. Like most people in the area, Galeguillos was a devout Catholic, and had a strong belief in guardian angels. In addition, he was familiar with the folklore of the region, which was full of stories about white animals bringing good luck, especially if seen at night. He strongly believed that he was singled out and rescued by a celestial being, through God's will.

A Butterfly So Far Underground?

So far no scientific explanation has been offered as to how a butterfly could have flown so far underground into the mine. It is known that when flowers bloom in the desert, small white butterflies are sometimes seen nearby. However, the nearest patch of blossom was over a mile from the mine. It is thought by some that perhaps the butterfly could have been sucked into the mine down a ventilation chimney when the tunnel collapsed, but such an event seems unlikely. What is indisputable is that the butterfly saved the lives of the two men by making them slow down. But that wasn't the only thing it did. It also gave hope to the anxious families waiting above ground. Galeguillos wrote a letter recounting the details of the butterfly and delivered it to the surface through a shaft that had been created to send down food and water to the miners. The letter provided reassurance to the families that their loved ones were protected by a Guardian angel and would eventually be safely rescued.

Jorge Galeguilos was not the only miner to believe that his ordeal had a religious significance. One of the others trapped, Mario Sepulveda, believed that the accident represented a turning point in his life: 'I was with God and the Devil,' he said later, 'and God took me'. Monica Avalos, the wife of the first man to be rescued, Florencio Avalos, believed that God was present throughout the ordeal, and that the rescue was nothing short of a miracle.

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