Real-life Toro Or Francisco Solano In ‘The Hijacking of Flight 601’: How Did Toro Die?


I’m really not surprised that Netflix made a mess out of The Hijacking of Flight 601’s true story. Everything has been changed from top to bottom. From the names of the airlines to the names of several characters and locations. However, the identities of real-life hijackers have been kept the same. Real-life Francisco Solano Lopez, also known as “Toro” Solano in the soccer world, belonged to a community of Paraguayan immigrants. In order to fulfill his only dream, the young lad had migrated to Pereira, Colombia. Throughout his life, Toro had only one goal in mind: he wanted to play soccer for the prestigious football clubs in Colombia.

With his longtime friend, Eusebio Borja, the young sports enthusiast arrived in the new country and joined the local football club, Deportivo Pereira, with the hopes of rising up the ladder of success from there. Unfortunately, neither of them realized their dreams. According to Massimo Di Ricco’s research, both hijackers played in the forward position. Toro never had any formal education and played aggressively in the field. The 31-year-old Toro participated in tryouts for various football clubs, but no one would sign them either. He was later labeled as a low-level player since his form wasn’t great, and because of this, even the local club refused to hire him. At the end of the day, Toro did not have a sports career or a job to sustain himself in the new country. According to him, he was literally dying of hunger when he decided to hijack the plane to raise some money for a small business.

Now, Netflix’s series tells us that Toro and Borja lived in a missionary orphanage in 1973 (the year they hijacked the plane) and were extremely poor. But that doesn’t seem to be true. In real life, they never had financial issues because, as per their colleagues, the two criminals had a pretty high standard of living and flaunted fancy watches. However, no one knew where the money came from. And because of their reckless lifestyle, the money was quickly depleting. Evidently, they had no proper source of income to maintain such a lifestyle. 

As shown in the series, Toro didn’t owe any debt to Don Pocho, and I am not even sure if he ever existed. It could be a totally fictitious character that gives a dramatic turn to Toro’s story. It can also be speculated that Toro never broke his foot. In real-life, he never passed the tryouts because of his poor form and aggressive style. Even the character of Checho, whom Borja met in a nightclub in Cali, seems fictional. The reason for this is that, according to the reports and Toro’s testimony, they didn’t carry any real guns. They used guns filled with blanks to terrorize the passengers on the plane, and even their explosives were fake. However, in Netflix’s series, the hijackers brought the same gun with which Checho killed himself, thereby implying that Toro and Borja carried real weapons. Even the grenade they brought to Flight 601 looked real, but nothing of that sort ever took place in real life. Additionally, none of the passengers or the hijackers were ever harmed. In Netflix’s series, we saw how Toro got shot during a tussle in the air, but because there weren’t any real guns involved in real life, the possibility of someone getting shot is close to 0. Also, unlike Checho, both Toro and Borja didn’t belong to the People’s Revolutionary Front, and they just spread lies to mislead the authorities. From day 1, they just wanted money to lead a comfortable life in their country. They had no other agenda.

In real life, the hijackers didn’t take any hostages with them, so the entire fiasco of Captain Richard Wilches being kidnapped was totally fictitious. As per the real events, Captain Hugo Molina made a pact with the hijackers to drop them at two different locations, i.e., Asuncion and Resistencia, so that they could make their escape without getting arrested. In return, the captain wanted the hijackers to let him and his crew be at peace and travel to Buenos Aires without any collateral damage. In short, the real-life hijackers got separated during the escape as Toro decided to jump off the plane in Asuncion, where his family lived. After leaving the plane, Toro waited for a day and took cover in the night’s darkness to board a train and then a bus to reach his neighborhood. However, soon after his arrival, Toro started handing out the stolen money to his family, friends, and relatives, which drew the attention of the authorities and ultimately got him arrested. Before his arrest, he had already distributed or spent some 5,000 dollars, and the remainder was seized by the police.

Some two years after Toro’s arrest, he was finally extradited to Colombia and sentenced to a five-year prison sentence in Medellin. As per the reports, he even wrote a book titled “I, the Air Pirate” in prison, but it never saw light. Maybe he didn’t publish it or never wrote it. However, Toro did want to tell his story of struggle and how he ended up becoming a terrorist as an average soccer player. I guess we would never be able to find out the truth, as Toro disappeared after his release from prison. He kept a low profile, and some rumors suggested that he died during a failed bank robbery in Buenos Aires. But even if he is alive, no one heard from him ever again, and he most likely lived a normal life thereafter. However, even though he only became a hijacker to gain some money, he ended up being a part of history by pulling off the longest skyjacking to date.

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Shikhar Agrawal
Shikhar Agrawal
I am an Onstage Dramatist and a Screenwriter. I have been working in the Indian Film Industry for the past 12 years, writing dialogues for various films and television shows.

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