The Incredible Story of Juliane Koepcke

Posted: September 11, 2017 in Amazing and Interesting Stories, Inspiration
Tags:

Have you heard of Juliane Koepcke? Because her story is absolutely mind-boggling.

Koepcke was a German Peruvian high school senior studying in Lima, intending to become a zoologist like her parents. On December 24th, 1971, the 17-year old and her mother, ornithologist Maria Koepcke, were traveling to meet with her father, biologist Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, who was working in the city of Pucallpa. She had no idea what lie ahead.

TheĀ  commercial airliner she was in was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm and broke up, disintegrating at 10,000-feet in the freaking sky. Juliane spun toward the jungle and earth below still strapped into her seat row, which included 3-seats still attached together. She was in the middle row.

Miraculously, she survived the fall. She was seatbelted into her seat and thus somewhat shielded and cushioned, but it has also been theorized that the outer pair of seats on each side of her functioned like a parachute and slowed her fall. In addition, the impact may also have been lessened by thunderstorm updraft as well as the landing site’s thick rainforest foliage. So, the seat row, updraft and soft (relatively) landing saved her life.

Of the plane’s 92-passengers, all perished save for Juliane.

She passed out sometime after the plane broke apart, but she does remember spinning through the night sky and seeing the jungle hurtling towards her. When she woke up, she found that she had only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm, and a swollen shut right eye.

“I was definitely strapped in when I fell,” she said later. “It must have turned and buffered the crash, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived. After I landed my first thought was, ‘I just survived a plane crash.'”

Wearing only a sleeveless mini-dress and one shoe, she set out to make it back to civilization.

Her first priority was to find her mother who had been seated next to her, but her search was unsuccessful. She recalled that as the plane began breaking apart her mother had held her hand and said very calmly and simply:

“This is the end. It’s all over.”

She later found out her mother had initially survived the crash, but died from her injuries several days later.

For the next 9-days she wandered through the dense rainforest, and finally found a stream that she followed. Before she set off she’d found some sweets which were to become her only food. She waded through knee-high water downstream from the crash site, often relying on the survival principles her father had luckily taught her, one being that tracking downstream should eventually lead to civilization. The stream provided clean water and a natural path through the dense rainforest vegetation.

During the trip Juliane could not sleep at night because of insect bites, which eventually became infected. Finally, after the 9th day she found a boat moored near a shelter, and she utilized the boat’s fuel tank. Again relying on her father’s advice, Juliane poured gasoline on her wounds, which succeeded in removing thirty-five maggots from one arm. Tough chick, man.

At that point she waited for someone to return to the shelter or boat arrived. Amazingly, she didn’t take the boat. Her reasoning?

“I didn’t want to take the boat because I didn’t want to steal it.”

Yep, after surviving a 10,000-foot fall, breaking her collarbone, wandering through the jungle for 9-days on one shoe while being eaten alive by insects, Juliane Koepcke’s integrity was still intact.

Hours later, the Peruvian lumberjacks who used the shelter arrived and found her. At first they thought she was a water goddess but she explained what happened and they tended to her injuries and bug infestations. The next morning they took her via a seven-hour canoe ride down river to a lumber station. With the help of a local pilot, she was airlifted to a hospital in Pucallpa, where her astonished father awaited.

Incredible.

The crash and story of survival obviously took its toll, but considering what happened Juliane came out of the ordeal in great shape. In 2010, she said this:

“I had nightmares for a long time, for years, and of course the grief about my mother’s death and that of the other people came back again and again. The thought, ‘Why was I the only survivor?’ haunts me. It always will.”

Anyway, Juliane Koepcke? One badass lady.

 

Note 1: There’s a great story that was originally printed in the BBC News Magazine. Click here if you’re interested.

Note 2: Juliane also wrote a book entitled “When I Fell From the Sky.” I shall order it post-haste.

Advertisements

Gimme a holler.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s