Tuesday 27 December 2016

Death of a remarkable survivor

Vesna Vulović, aged 66, died in her Belgrade apartment over Christmas. Nearly 45 years earlier she had fallen 33,000 feet from a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 that blew up over the Czech Republic en route from Stockholm to Belgrade.

Vulović, a flight attendant, was the only survivor among the 28 people on board. She was trapped in the tail as the aircraft plummeted to a mountainous area, and it is thought that pine trees and the snow softened the impact.

The Serbian woman was rescued by a woodsman who heard her screams. She was rushed to hospital after suffering a fractured skull, two crushed vertebrae and a broken pelvis, ribs and legs, but eventually made an almost complete recovery. Vulović’s fall would feature in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest anyone had ever survived without a parachute.

For a long time it was suspected the DC-9 had been brought down by a bomb on board, but in recent years a new theory emerged that it had been shot down by mistake by the then Czechoslovak air force.

(For other stories of remarkable escapes, see my posts of 4 July 2009, 16 January 2010, and 22 March 2011.)

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