Omayra Sánchez Garzón (August 28, 1972 – November 16, 1985) was a Colombian girl killed in Armero, department of Tolima, by the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano, when she was 13 years old. Volcanic debris mixed with ice to form massive lahars (volcanically induced mudslides, landslides, and debris flows) that rushed into the river valleys below the mountain, killing nearly 25,000 people and destroying Armero and 13 other villages.
After a lahar
demolished her home, Sánchez became pinned beneath the debris of her
house; she remained trapped in water for three days. Her plight was
documented as she descended from calmness into agony. Her courage and
dignity touched journalists and relief workers, who put great efforts
into comforting her. After 55 hours of struggling, she died, likely as a
result of either gangrene or hypothermia.
Her death highlighted the failure of officials to respond promptly to
the threat of the volcano, contrasted with the efforts of volunteer
rescue workers to reach and treat trapped victims, despite a dearth of
supplies and equipment.
Sánchez became internationally famous through a photograph of her taken by the photojournalist Frank Fournier shortly before she died. When published worldwide it generated considerable controversy; it was later designated the World Press Photo of the Year
for 1985. Sánchez has remained a lasting figure in popular culture,
remembered through music, literature, and commemorative articles.