The Sole Survivor of Vietnam Airlines Flight 474 and Her 192 Hours Alone In the Jungle

In November 1992, Annette Herfkens and her fiancé Willem van der Pas (pictured above) planned a 5-day trip to Nha Trang, Vietnam, but they never made it there. Vietnam Airlines Flight 474 was supposed to be a 50 minute flight, but as it cruised over the mountainous Vietnamese jungle, it hit some trees on a ridge during the descent into Nha Trang, lost one of its wings, struck another mountain, and then flipped upside-down. Annette said she wasn’t wearing her seat belt, causing her to be tossed around the cabin, which clearly saved her life. The plane, carrying 24 passengers and 6 crew, had broken up on impact. She would be the only survivor of the crash, alone and in an unforgiving jungle. She lowered herself out of the broken fuselage, off the mountain, and onto the jungle floor. Annette suffered 12 fractures in her hip and 2 in her leg, a broken jaw, and a collapsed lung. It would take rescue workers 8 long days to find her. In those 8 days, she used yoga breathing techniques to cope with her collapsed lung. She made bowls from insulation padding in the plane’s wing to catch rainwater to drink, which was all she survived on. She was rescued when a team of Vietnamese workers found her and summoned police. She was airlifted to Singapore, where she began to recover from her physical injuries, but said it took her a while longer to get over the psychological impact of losing her fiancé. She later married and had two children. In 2006, she revisited the crash site, and in 2016 wrote a book about the crash called “Turbulence: A True Story of Survival.” The cause of the crash has never been determined.
Annette at the crash site in 2006 with Mr. Cao, one the police officers who rescued her