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Person Survives a Fall From 33,338 Feet and No Parachute

Person Survives a Fall From 33,338 Feet and No Parachute

The idea that anyone could fall from a plane and survive is only something we think can happen in the movies. The number of circumstances that would have to be in place to survive a fall from the sky would be remarkable. Yet, this is precisely what happened to Vesna Vulovic, who is best known as the stewardess who fell from 33,000 feet and survived.

Early Life

View of Saint Sava, orthodox church in Belgrade, Serbia.
Vesna Vulović grew up in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, after being born in 1950.
©AstroStar/Shutterstock.com

Vesna Vulovic was born on January 3, 1950, in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and was the daughter of a businessman and a fitness instructor. After completing her first year of university, Vulovic went to the United Kingdom based on her love for the Beatles and a desire to improve her English language skills.

Found Her Calling

JAT
JAT Airways was Yugoslavia’s national airline.
©Aeroprints.com / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license - Original / License

Upon returning home to Yugoslavia after some time away, Vulovic saw a friend in an air hostess outfit and decided to follow suit. In 1971, her decision to join JAT, the national airline at the time, would be a fateful one.

The Flight

DC-9
This is the type of plane Vesna Vulovic was on when the explosion occurred.
©aceebee / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license - Original / License

According to Vulovic, she was not scheduled to be on Flight 367, but her airline confused her with another flight attendant also named Vesna. The original flight was set from Stockholm to Belgrade, with two stopovers in Copenhagen and Zagreb. Vulovic had always wanted to see Denmark, so she agreed to take the flight.

The Man

The bomb was likely loaded onto the airplane in Stockholm’s airport.
©"Airport Arlanda Sweden" by Andreas Trepte is licensed under BY-SA 2.5. - Original / License

Flight 367 left Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport at 1:30 PM local time on January 6. The McDonnell Douglas DC-9 would land at Copenhagen Airport approximately one hour later when Vulvoci and her flight attendant crew boarded the plane. Vulovic later recalled seeing one man get off the plane looking “terribly annoyed” and believes he planted the bomb.

The Explosion

Loading airplane parked by Copenhagen airport building, stairs and luggage carriers nearby
The tragic events would take place after the plane Copenhagen Airport.
©joyfull/Shutterstock.com

After changing out the flight crew and loading new passengers, Flight 367 left Copenhagen Airport at 3:15 PM. At approximately 4:01 PM, an explosion tore through the plane’s baggage compartment and caused the plane to break up over the then-Czechoslovak village of Srbska Kamenice. Out of the 28 passengers and crew on board, Vulovic was the only survivor.

The Fall

Skydiver diving alone in blue sky at sunny day, adventure concept.
Unfortunately, Vulovic had no parachute and likely passed out on the way down.
©Rick Neves/Shutterstock.com

According to air safety investigators, Vesna Vulovic survived falling 33,338 feet without a parachute by being trapped in a food trolley in the plane’s fuselage. With the cabin depressurized, everyone else on board was thrown from the plane. Still, investigators credit the fuselage’s landing angle on a snow-covered mountainside as cushioning the impact and allowing Vulovic to survive.

Bruno Honke

B29 Bleaklow overexposed plane crash in the Peak District, near Glossop, Derbyshire. 3rd November 1948. Unfortunately, all 13 crew members lost their lives in the crash on 3rd November 1948
Luckily for Vulovic, a nearby villager heard her cries for help.
©Sophie Burgess/Shutterstock.com

The story of Vulovic’s survival is also credited to villager Bruno Honke, who heard her screaming from the wreckage of the plane. According to his statements, she was covered in blood, and the force of the impact had blown off her heels. Honke, who had previously been an army medic, helped Vulovic survive until rescuers arrived.

Injury and Recovery

Nobody in hospital bed at clinical ward on modern floor with comfortable bed, monitor, medical equipment. Technology used for treating disease, illness, surgery recovery, injury
There is no question Vulovic’s recovery was long and challenging.
©DC Studio/Shutterstock.com

Following the events of the crash, Vulovic spent 10 days in a coma with her skull fractured, two broken legs, three broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis, and several broken ribs. Initially, it was thought that Vulovic was paralyzed from the waist down, but she would later regain the feeling in her legs after multiple surgeries. Perhaps for the best, Vulovic had amnesia about the explosion and had to be told about her circumstances.

Newfound Fame

Red Carpet, Red velvet carpets grace the elaborate staircases of the theater building.
Yugoslavia rolled out the red carpet for Vulovic, who became a national hero.
©Sanit Fuangnakhon/Shutterstock.com

Unsurprisingly, Vulovic found immediate fame after her experience, but she wanted to return to her job as a flight attendant. Instead, JAT gave her a desk job while Yugoslavia treated her like a national hero. Vesna would continue to fly regularly, though she would be fired from JAT in the early 1990s after speaking out against Slobodan Milosevic.

Guinness Record

Guinness World Record
There is no question that Vulovic’s fall was a world record.

It should come as no surprise that Vulovic’s fall earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Her record is the highest fall without a parachute at approximately 33,000 feet, again bringing Vulovic additional international media attention before she died in 2016.

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