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This is the incredible story of an air hostess who holds a truly terrifying Guinness World Records: the highest fall survived without a parachute.
Vesna Vulović was 23 at the time of her horrific ordeal, and in a cruel twist of fate wasn’t even supposed to be on the plane that ended up plummeting out of the sky.
The airline confused Vesna with another flight attendant of the same name, meaning she ended up being rostered with the crew manning the ill-fated flight.
She was the only one of the 28 passengers and crew members to survive.
Vesna told security training firm Green Light Limited in 2002: “My colleagues had a feeling that something would happen to them. The captain was locked in his room for 24 hours. He didn’t want to go out at all.”
On 26 January 1972, Vesna boarded JAT Yugoslav Airlines Flight 367 in Copenhagen, Denmark heading to Belgrade, Serbia.
The plane exploded over the village of Srbska Kamenice in what is now Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia at the time).
While other passengers were reportedly sucked out of the plane by the change in air pressure, Vesna found herself jammed in place by the food cart, trapped in the plane’s broken fuselage as it hurtled 33,333 feet to the ground.
Vesna’s physicians later determined that her low blood pressure meant she quickly passed out as the cabin depressurised, which saved her heart from bursting as the plane hit the ground.
The plane also landed in a wooded area with thick snow, which also helped save Vesna’s life. She has no memory of the incident.
She sustained heavy injuries from the mind-bending fall – suffering a skull fracture, broken vertebrae and legs, several broken ribs and a fractured pelvis.
She was found screaming inside the aircraft’s wreckage by Bruno Honke, a former World War Two medic, who was able to provide life-saving first aid.
Vesna fell into a coma for several days and has amnesia from one hour before the incident until one month after.
Speaking to Green Light, she said: “The first thing I remember is seeing my parents in the hospital.
“I was talking to them asking them why they were with me in Slovenia. I thought I was in Slovenia because I was just in Ljubljana before going to Copenhagen.”
Vesna was temporarily paralysed from the waist down, but was able to walk again after 10 months.
As for the cause of the plane crash, it is believed a bomb in a suitcase exploded in the baggage compartment. No arrests were ever made, but Croatian terrorist group the Ustashe were suspected to be behind the attack.
Vesna died in 2016 at the age of 66. When she was asked if she felt she was lucky to have survived the 33,000 feet fall, she said: “If I were lucky, I would never had this accident, and my mother and father would be alive.
“The accident ruined their lives, too. Maybe I was born in the wrong place. Maybe it was a bad place.”
If you have experienced a bereavement and would like to speak with someone in confidence contact Cruse Bereavement Care via their national helpline on 0808 808 1677
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