This Girl Is The Only Survivor Of A Plane Crash That Killed 91

This Girl Is The Only Survivor Of A Plane Crash That Killed 91!

Imagine surviving a plane crash that killed 91 people. This is the extraordinary story of Juliane Koepcke, the sole survivor of LANSA Flight 508. She survived after a two-mile fall while strapped to her seat, Juliane was just 17 years old at the time. The horror didn’t really end there. She then endured 11 days alone in the Amazon rainforest. Her resilience through it all makes her story truly miraculous. Let’s have a look at the details. 

The Fateful Flight: Christmas Eve 1971

On December 24, 1971, Juliane and her mother, Maria, boarded LANSA Flight 508 from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru. The airline had a poor reputation, and Juliane’s father, Hans-Wilhelm had advised against flying with them. But it was the only available flight for them. As they flew over the Peruvian rainforest, the plane was struck by lightning. The flight broke apart mid-air. 

The plane experienced severe turbulence and parcels, and gifts that people were carrying for Christmas all flew from the overhead cabins. 

Juliane and her mother held her hands as fear struck. The rest of the passengers cried and wept as everything went down. The flight then went pitch black as it took a nose-dive. 

“There was very heavy turbulence and the plane was jumping up and down… then I saw a very bright light on the outer engine on the left.”

Juliane recalled.
Image source: ABC

Juliane’s mother sat beside her and her last words were: “That is the end, it’s all over.”Juliane, only 17, found herself plummeting 10,000 feet (around 3 km / 2 miles) to the ground, still strapped to her seat. Her mother, who sat next to her was nowhere to be found. 

“I felt completely alone. I could see the canopy of the jungle spinning towards me. Then I lost consciousness, and remember nothing of the impact. Later I learned that the plane had broken into pieces about two miles above the ground.”

Juliane Koepcke
Image source: Business Insider ( A picture of young Juliane with her parents)

Surviving the Jungle: Juliane’s Ordeal

Experts believe that Juliane survived because she was strapped into her seat. It acted like a parachute and the thick vegetation of the jungle cushioned her fall.

“I woke the next day and looked up into the canopy. The first thought I had was: “I survived an air crash.”

Juliane Koepcke

When Juliane woke up the next day, she was injured but alive. She had a broken collarbone, deep scratches, a ruptured knee ligament, and a concussion. Despite the pain, she realized she was the only survivor and needed to use her survival skills. She learned many skills from her parents at their remote jungle research station, to stay alive.

She followed a small creek, knowing it would lead to a larger river and eventually to civilization. For food, she had only a small bag of sweets. She dealt with insect bites and a severe wound on her upper arm that became infested with maggots. To treat the infestation, she remembered a survival trick from her father and used gasoline to kill the maggots.

“I could hear the planes overhead searching for the wreck but it was a very dense forest and I couldn’t see them.”

Juliane Koepcke

Juliane was wearing a short, sleeveless dress with white sandals. Hardly, an outfit fit for the jungle and how cold it can get. 

“By the 10th day, I couldn’t stand properly and I drifted along the edge of a larger river I had found. I felt so lonely like I was in a parallel universe far away from any human being. I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a really large boat. When I went to touch it and realized it was real, it was like an adrenaline shot.”

Juliane Koepcke
Image source: BBC

Rescue After 11 Days

On the tenth day, Juliane found a lumberjack encampment. The men initially thought she was a water goddess from local legends but soon realized she needed help. They treated her wounds with more gasoline and transported her to a nearby town. She was then airlifted to a hospital where she fully recovered.

Juliane later assisted search parties in locating the crash site and recovering the bodies of the victims, including her mother. 14 other passengers were later discovered who may have survived the initial crash but passed away in the forest while waiting to be rescued.

Image source: Spiegel / Time to depart
Image source: The New York Times / Business Insider

Life After the Crash: Juliane’s Journey

Juliane returned to Germany, completed her education, and followed in her parents’ footsteps by studying biology. She specialized in mammalogy, focusing on bats, and earned her doctorate. Her thesis was published in 1987, and she continued her research in Peru.

Juliane’s survival story has been told in numerous documentaries and books, including her own autobiography, “When I Fell from the Sky.” Her experience has inspired many and highlighted the importance of resilience and the human spirit.

Image source: The Washington Post

Reflection and Legacy

Juliane has often reflected on the crash and its impact on her life. She has said, “The thought ‘why was I the only survivor?’ haunts me. It always will.” Despite this, she has continued her work in environmental science and conservation, carrying on her parents’ legacy.


Juliane Koepcke’s story is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the will to survive. Her journey from a plane crash survivor to a respected scientist is an inspiring reminder of resilience and determination. Her story encourages us to reflect on our own challenges and the power of perseverance.

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