Plane crash

Pinned to the tail and survived 10,000 meters fall!

Vesna Vulovic survived a plane crash. Her name got registered in the Guinness book of world records for surviving a fall from 10 km. without a parachute but strangely she doesn’t have any memories of the accident.

Vesna Vulovic’s plane crash

Vesna Vulovic, a Serbian flight attendant, born on 3 January 1950 holds the Guinness world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute. The JAT Flight 367 going from Stockholm to Zagreb was at an altitude of 10,160 m (33,330 ft) on 26 January 1972 when a briefcase bomb exploded in the baggage compartment. It crashed in the then Czechoslovakia & out of 28 persons on board, including passengers & crew, she was the sole survivor.

She was somehow pinned to the back of the plane and fell to the earth, in heavy snow. She remained in the tail of the plane which was undamaged to some extent. The fuselage tumbled through pine branches and into a thick coating of snow, softening the impact and cushioning its descent down the hill. Vulovic was rescued by a woodsman who followed her screams in the dark forest.

Vesna Vulovic at time of accident
Vesna Vulovic at time of accident

She was rushed to hospital where she fell into a coma for 10 days and underwent treatment for several months. She suffered a fractured skull, broken vertebrae, legs & ribs, and a fractured pelvis. The injuries resulted in her being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. She made an almost complete recovery but continued to walk with a limp.

Why did Vulovic have no memory of the accident?

A severe blow to the head which fractured the skull, led her into Anterograde amnesia as she had no memories of the accident. In this form of amnesia, the mind doesn’t form any memories for some time so the individual doesn’t remember anything about that period. The memories of the earlier period remain intact and after recovering from the effect of that blow, the mind again starts forming memories. It is a very rare condition, despite being a popular theme for movies and books.

Why she was not allowed to work as a Flight attendant later?

Vulovic had no memory of the incident and had no qualms about flying even later. Despite her willingness to resume work as a flight attendant, Jat Airways (JAT) gave her a desk job, negotiating freight contracts. The airline’s view was that her presence on flights would attract too much publicity. The airline was even criticized for not allowing her to resume her same job and also being superstitious.

However, I personally feel that the fact that she had suffered from Anterograde amnesia must also have been a deciding factor in not allowing her to fly. She had no memories of the accident but it was quite possible that any similarity, during the flights, with anything to the accident day, could have triggered her memories and she could have gone into a panic attack immediately. Her mind didn’t form memories of the complete incident but there must be memories inside till she got the blow.

Contradictory claims about the plane accident

37 years later, in 2009, two investigative journalists in Prague made totally different claims. They believed the plane had probably been shot down by the Czechoslovakian air force. It was mistaken for an enemy aircraft. According to them, the accident occurred at a much lower height than previously believed. However, such facts can just affect her Guinness world record for surviving the highest fall. This can not change the fact that a plane accident occurred and she was the sole survivor.

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She became a celebrity in Yugoslavia and was deemed a national hero. However, later she was fired from service after taking part in anti-government protests. She died on 23 December 2016.

3 thoughts on “Pinned to the tail and survived 10,000 meters fall!”

  1. What an absolutely incredible thing to survive; I had never heard of Vesna Vulovic before but her life story here is both fascinating and frightening. To be the sole survivor of a crash like this must have been a very difficult thing to process. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Very interesting story. I’ve never heard it before. I can’t imagine what she went through. I guess it was good for her to have the amnesia in some ways. She didn’t have to relive what happened in the plane over and over again. That would be so hard to move away from. It’s kind of like it happened to someone else. Thank you for sharing.

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