The Woman Who Fell From the Sky and Lived


Juliane Koepcke was the sole survivor of the 93 passengers and crew in the 1971 crash of LANSA Flight 508 in the Peruvian rainforest. The airplane was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm and exploded in mid-air. Koepcke, who was 17 years old at the time, fell thousands of feet still strapped into her seat. The thick deep jungle canopy cushioned her fall, and she survived with only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm and her right eye swollen shut. Koepcke had no training or gear, but her parents had once told her that the best way to find people in the jungle was to follow a waterway, since people often build camps and villages along the rivers. With no one else in sight, she struck out alone. Armed with only that bit of information, she was soon able to locate a small stream, which she followed for nine days. She finally found a canoe and a nearby shelter, where she waited, and was soon rescued by two loggers. Unbelievably, others had also made it to the ground, their fall broken by the heavy vegetation, but they decided to wait for rescue, which didn’t arrive until weeks after the plane explosion. Koepcke’s mother was among the group, who all died of starvation and their injuries before searchers located the wreckage.