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The Girl Who Survived The Fall From The Sky

Juliane Koepcke

On December 24, 1971, 17 year old Juliane Koepcke and her mom, Maria, boarded Lansa flight 508 to Pucallpa. They were on their way to meet Juliane's dad who was working as a biologist there. Juliane and Maria were warned about flying with Lansa as it had a very bad reputation but still booked the tickets as the flight to Pucallpa was shorter than an hour and they were very eager to reach there. The flight was delayed for seven hours due to bad weather. The plane took off at 11 AM. Within half an hour the weather got really bad and the people on board understood that they were in serious trouble. Very soon, at an altitude of 100,000 feet, the airplane got struck by a lightning which set the fuel tank on fire. Juliane mentions in her autobiography - "Suddenly, daylight turns to night and lightning flashes from all directions. People gasp as the plane shakes violently. Bags, wrapped gifts, and clothing fall from overhead lockers". The plane disintegrated and made a nosedive. Juliane, still strapped into her seat, fell about two miles into the rain-forest below. Juliane vaguely remembers the free fall and the Peruvian forest spinning towards her. She lost consciousness before touching the ground. Juliane woke up the next day with a broken collarbone and deep cuts on her legs and arms. Her right eye was swollen due to burst capillaries. She unbuckled herself from the seat and somehow managed to get up. She tried to find her mom but didn't get lucky in that thick forest. For two years before the crash, Juliane had been home-schooled in Pucallpa. She was taught all the basic survival skills by her zoologist parents and knew a lot about the forest. She could locate a creek nearby, then followed it to the stream for fresh water. She had found some sweets in the crash site which were to become her food. She walked through the knee-high water downstream as she knew that it would eventually lead to civilization. At night she got attacked by insects and her wounds became infected. A cut on her arm got infested with maggots. After 9 days she found some gasoline in a boat which was moored near a shelter. She poured the gasoline on her wounds to remove the maggots and then stayed at the shelter. The next morning forestry workers who returned to the shelter found her and gave her first aid. She was then flown to the hospital with the help of a local pilot. Juliane was reunited with her father later. She was the only survivor and Lansa airlines was shut down soon after that.

Juliane moved to Germany and there she joined college to study biology. In 2011 she published her autobiography - "When I Fell From The Sky".


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