Vesna Vulovic

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

Vesna Vulovic survived a plane crash. All the passengers in the plane died, but she survived the fall from 10 km. But, strangely she doesn’t have any memories of the accident.

Who is Vesna Vulovic?

Vesna Vulovic, born January3, 1950, a Serbian flight attendant, holds the Guinness world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute. On 26 January 1972, the JAT Flight 367 was on it’s way from Stockholm to Zagreb at an altitude of 10,160 m (33,330 ft).

A briefcase bomb exploded in the baggage compartment and the plane crashed in the then Czechoslovakia. Out of 28 persons on board, including passengers & crew, she was the sole survivor.

How did Vesna Vulovic survive her fall?

She 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. It softened the impact, and cushioning its descent down the hill. A woodsman on hearing Vulovic’s screams in the dark forest rescued her.

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

She was rushed to hospital where she fell into a coma for 10 days. She underwent treatment for months for 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?

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

Why Vesna Vulovic didn’t worked as a flight attendant later?

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

However, I personally feel that Anterograde amnesia must also have been a deciding factor in not allowing her to fly. Although, 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. This could have taken her into a panic attack immediately. Her mind didn’t form memories of the complete incident but there must be some memories of that incident, before she got the blow.

Contradictory claims about the Vesna Vulovic accident

37 years later, in 2009, two investigative journalists in Prague made totally different claim. They believed that probably the Czechoslovakian air force mistaken it for an enemy aircraft and shot it down. According to them, the accident occurred at a much lower altitude 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.

You may like – How she survived a 3 km free fall and 11 days in dense forests

How did Vesna Vulovic died?

She became a celebrity in Yugoslavia and was deemed a national hero. However, later the airlines fired her from services for taking part in anti-government protests. She died on 23 December 2016 at the age of 66. She was reported found dead in her apartment.

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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