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Vesna Vulovic – she survived the highest fall without a parachute

Vesna Vulović's incredible tale unfolds on January 26, 1972, when a Yugoslav Airlines flight tragically exploded mid-air. As the sole survivor of the highest fall without a parachute, Vulović's journey of resilience captivates the world. Despite severe injuries, her remarkable recovery defied medical predictions. Recognized by Guinness World Records, her legacy continues to inspire, emphasizing the unwavering strength of the human spirit. Vulović's story stands as a testament to survival against all odds and the enduring power of hope.

On January 26, 1972, a Yugoslav Airlines Douglas DC-9 aircraft carrying 28 passengers and crew members embarked on a seemingly routine flight from Zagreb, Croatia, to Belgrade, Serbia. However, tragedy struck near Srbská Kamenice, Czechoslovakia, when a bomb ripped through the fuselage, tearing the plane apart at 33,000 feet (10km). Miraculously, amidst the debris and despair, one life defied the odds: Vesna Vulović, a 23-year-old flight attendant, survived a fall that would forever etch her name in aviation history.

A JAT Airways McDonnell Douglas DC-9 like the one destroyed by the explosion

Vulović's exact position during the explosion remains unclear, but she is believed to have been strapped into her jump seat in the tail section, which remained relatively intact after the fuselage disintegrated. This, combined with the fortuitous landing in a snow-covered forest, cushioned the impact, absorbing some of the devastating force. However, her injuries were horrific: a fractured skull, broken legs and vertebrae, and internal bleeding.

Vesna Vulovic in hospital

Local villager Bruno Honke, a former World War II medic, discovered Vulović still breathing amidst the wreckage. Despite the remoteness and harsh conditions, he administered crucial first aid, paving the way for her eventual rescue. She spent 27 days in a coma, defying medical predictions of her inevitable demise. When she finally awakened, she had no memory of the accident or the month that followed. According to Vesna Vulovich herself, the first thing she asked, when she regained consciousness, was to smoke.

Paul McCartney and Vesna Vulovic


The treatment took 16 months, of which during 10 months the girl was paralyzed in the lower part of the body (from the waist to the legs).

Vulović's remarkable recovery surprised both medical professionals and the world. Though she sustained permanent injuries, including partial paralysis and limited mobility, she eventually relearned to walk. Her story captured international attention, becoming a symbol of human resilience and defying the perceived limits of survival.

The cause of the explosion remains officially undetermined, leaving room for speculation and conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, Vulović's survival stands as a testament to the extraordinary tenacity of human life and the unpredictable twists of fate.

Vesna Vulović's story continues to inspire awe and curiosity. Despite shying away from the limelight, she embraced her unique place in history. She went on to work for JAT Yugoslav Airlines for another 27 years, eventually retiring as a supervisor. In 2009, she was officially recognized by the Guinness World Records as the person who survived the highest fall without a parachute.

While Vulović passed away in 2016 at the age of 66, her story serves as a poignant reminder of the human spirit's capacity to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. It is a testament to the power of chance, the importance of timely intervention, and the sheer strength of the will to live. Vesna Vulović's miracle serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us that even in the face of immense adversity, survival can sometimes defy all expectations.


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