How Juliane Koepcke Survived A Plane Crash And 11 Days Alone In The Amazon

Updated : Jan 07, 2020 in Articles

How Juliane Koepcke Survived A Plane Crash And 11 Days Alone In The Amazon

On December 24, 1971, LANSA
508 from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru was struck by lightning. Now considered the
deadliest lightning strike in aviation history,
it caused a crash that ultimately led to the
demise of everyone onboard, except for one 17-year-old girl. Today, we’re going to explain
how Juliane Koepcke survived a plane crash and 11
days alone in the Amazon. But before we get started,
be sure to subscribe to the Weird History Channel. And while you’re at
it, leave a comment and let us know what
stories of survival you would like to
hear more about. OK, we go to the
skies over Peru. Koepcke’s hazy
disjointed recollections of the flight and the crash are
nothing short of pure nightmare fuel. It was the day after
her senior prom and just a few hours after
her high school graduation ceremony. She was flying with her mother
between Pucallpa and Lima so they could celebrate
with her father. Along the way, the plane
encountered a storm. The sky became pitch
black all around them. And lightning was constantly
flashing outside the windows. While her mother was concerned,
Juliane, who loved to fly, didn’t think much of it. Suddenly, there was a
bright light on the wing. And her mother said,
now, it’s over. The engine roared. People screamed. The plane plunged sharply
towards the ground and began to break apart. Juliane’s mother was
thrown from her seat. Finally, Juliane, along
with her seat bench, was sucked from the fuselage
and out into the sky. Koepcke says she
felt a calming wind as she plummeted toward the
thick forest canopy, which she later recalled as resembling
green cauliflower or broccoli. Her seat, which she
was still belted to, rotated like a helicopter blade. She suspects this may have
played a role in slowing her descent and
that the seat itself must have cushioned her fall. Yeah, think about that the
next time a flight attendant reminds you to buckle up. Juliane blacked
out before impact. And due to a concussion,
she retains no memory of the next 20 hours or so. She suspects she must have
awakened during this period and removed her seat
belt because it was off by the time she fully
regained consciousness. It was 9:00 AM the
morning after the crash. In fact, she could tell
thanks to her watch, which at this point
was still functioning. It was also pouring rain. Koepcke was soaking wet,
dirty, and partially underneath her seat bench. She crawled fully under to
escape the rain while she regained her strength. According to Koepcke, I
couldn’t really feel anything. It was like being
wrapped in cotton balls. With a lot of effort, I could
only get up on my knees. And then everything
turned black again. It would be a full
day and a half before she was able
to get up and walk. Juliane could tell her
collarbone was badly broken. It was a sharp break that was
overlapping beneath her skin but luckily had not
punctured through. She also had a deep
laceration on her calf. But because she was in shock,
it wasn’t bleeding too much. Another cut on her arm had
become infected with maggots. She feared that this might
mean the arm would eventually have to be amputated. But at this point, there was
nothing she could do about it. Doctors would later discover
she also fractured her shin, strained her vertebra,
and tore her ACL. Likely due to the
effects of adrenaline, she didn’t feel any of those
things until much later after she had
reached a hospital. Once she felt strong
enough, Juliane forced herself to her feet. Most people would probably be
terrified to find themselves alone and injured in the
middle of a jungle teeming with snakes, crocodiles, and
all manner of poisonous flora and fauna. But Juliane Koepcke had
a very unique childhood. Her mother, a world-renowned
ornithologist, and her father, a famous zoologist, worked
at a research station in– would you believe it– a Peruvian rainforest. Yes, Juliane had been raised
in a very similar area. And her familiarity with
the types of terrain was a major factor
in her survival. It also meant she never became
overly afraid of her situation. Koepcke herself mused, I
learned a lot about life in the rainforest. And it wasn’t too dangerous. It’s not the green hell that
the world always thinks. No. Juliane wasn’t
afraid for herself. She was afraid for her mother. Once she was able, Koepcke began
to scout the area immediately around her crash site for
other survivors and resources. She was careful to leave a
trail since she knew how easy it was to get lost in the jungle. On the fourth day
after the crash, she heard a sound she recognized
as a king vulture landing in the forest. She knew from her
ornithologist mother that this particular
type of vulture only landed when carrion
or rotting flesh was in the immediate vicinity. Following the sound, she
discovered the remains of three other passengers. Still strapped to
their seats, they had impacted the
ground with such force that they were buried
3 feet deep with only their feet remaining visible. One of the victims was a woman. And Koepcke initially feared
it might be her mother. However, poking
her with a stick, she was able to discern that
the woman had painted toenails, which her mother did not. During those first
few days, Koepcke would occasionally hear
the sounds of rescue planes overhead. Because the forest
canopy was so thick, she wasn’t able to see them. More frustratingly, she could
not get their attention. Eventually, the sounds of
the planes disappeared. And she realized they were no
longer searching for survivors. She would later describe these
as her most hopeless moments. And she realized she
would have to rely on herself if she was going to
escape the rainforest alive. Finding water was as simple as
licking droplets off leaves. But finding food
was no easy task. She didn’t have the tools
necessary to fish or hack at edible stems and roots. And she knew a great
deal of what else grew in the rainforest
was poisonous. Though it wasn’t
much, Koepcke had been lucky enough to
discover a bag of candy near where she landed. That candy would be
her only sustenance. And she rationed it carefully,
eating just a couple of pieces each day. Once it was gone, she
experienced extreme hunger. At one point, Juliane
briefly considered trying to catch and eat some
wild frogs she had spotted but discovered she was too
weak and slow to get them. This ultimately turned out to
be a good thing since she later learned they were
venomous dart frogs that likely would have ended her. Juliane searched the area she
landed and for other survivors. But she didn’t find any. She did, however,
find a small well. It reminded her of some advice
her father had given her as a child. He told her if she was
ever lost in the jungle, she should follow the water
sources to find rescue. The idea was that
each tiny stream would lead to a bigger one and
eventually to one big enough to be a water source
for potential rescuers. Juliane has stated that had
she found other survivors, she probably would have stayed
put and waited with them. In hindsight, she
realized that likely would have cost her her life. Without anyone
else to wait with, she decided to start at the
well and follow the water. Progress was slow and
difficult. Koepcke was wearing only a
short sleeveless mini dress, which made the
nights very cold for her. Her watch had also
stopped working, which meant she had to
keep a close eye on the sun to tell time. She was also missing
a shoe, which was particularly
worrisome, given that she knew there
were snakes that liked to camouflage themselves
among the leaves on the forest floor. Complicating things even
further was the fact that she had also lost her
glasses in the plane crash. Taken together, all this meant
that she had to constantly use her remaining shoe to
probe the path ahead of her before she could
take even one step. Eventually, the creek
she was following became deep enough to walk in. Despite the fact that Koepcke
could see crocodiles slipping in and out of the water,
she knew they seldom bothered humans and that
by traveling by water was ultimately safer
than traveling by land. As she followed
the water, Koepcke noticed that the way was
often blocked by logs– a sign that the area wasn’t
well traveled and might not lead her to rescuers. Blocking these
discouraging thoughts out, Juliane continued on. Then on the 10th day after
the crash of LANSA flight 508, Koepcke spotted a boat. At first, she thought
she was hallucinating. But she moved toward it
and found herself actually able to touch it. Once she determined the boat was
real, her adrenaline kicked in. Near the riverbank where
she spotted the boat, Koepcke saw a path leading
up into the forest. Assuming her rescuers had
gone in that direction, she tried to make her
own way up the path. By this point, she was so
weak she could only crawl. Even worse, the maggots
that had infected the cut on her right arm were
causing her intense pain, as they tried to burrow
further into the wound. Luckily at the top
of the path, she came across a small hut that
had a can of gasoline in it. She recalled that
in her childhood, her father had used
kerosene to treat a dog who had a similar wound. Juliane sucked the
gasoline from the can and applied it to her wound. The pain was intense,
but it worked. She removed 30 maggots herself. Her rescuers would
later remove another 50. But thanks to this
quick-thinking action, she never had to lose her arm. With no one else
in sight, Koepcke tried to sleep in
the hut under a tarp but found the ground too hard. She returned to the riverbank
and spent the night there. In the morning, she
returned to the hut. This time, she was discovered
by three Peruvian men. They were confused
by her presence and frightened by her
bloodshot eyes and blond hair. Koepcke later explained they
believe in all sorts of ghosts there. And at first they thought
it was one of these water spirits called Yemania. They are blond supposedly. Luckily, Juliane
spoke fluent Spanish and was able to explain
her situation to them in their own language. The next day these men took
her downstream in their boat to a nearby town where she
was able to get treatment at a local hospital. Juliane was the only survivor
of LANSA a flight 508. But it’s interesting to note the
crash almost claimed one more. Film Director Werner Herzog
was almost on the flight. But a last-minute
change in plans caused him to cancel
his reservations. Inspired by this
twist of fate, he would later create the
documentary Wings of Hope to tell the incredible tale
of Juliane Koepcke’s survival. Do you think you could
survive what Juliane did? Let us know in the
comments below. And while you’re at it, check
out some of these other videos from our Weird History. [MUSIC PLAYING]


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