Survival Story of Vesna Vulović
On January 26th, 1972, Vesna Vulović was only 22 years old when the unthinkable happened.
Vesna Vulović in the hospital following the crash
As an Air Stewardess currently working on Yugoslav Airlines Douglas DC-9, a suitcase full of bombs exploded. The bombs were thought to be planted in between a stopover at Copenhagen, Denmark, but nothing was ever proven nor were any arrests made. The plane freefall 33,000ft (10,000m), and 27 deaths were the result of that. Vilovi was stuck in the tail of the plane, lodged between a few food carts. It was later discovered that the way she was pinned was the only reason she survived the fall. The plane broke into two parts, with the tail falling onto a heavy wooded, snow covered hillside.
Something else that saved her life, was something that also stopped her from fulfilling her dream. Vulović suffered from low blood pressure, which is something that commonly ran in her family. Physicians believed that her low pressure was the reason that her heart did not burst. Only 8 months before the incident, Vulović drank several cups of coffee to elevate her blood pressure; and it worked in helping her pass the medical exam.
Having fallen into the woods, her screams were heard by a woodsman, Bruno Honke. Being a medic during World War II and was able to keep her alive until paramedics arrived. She sustained many injuries, including a fractured skull, two crushed vertebrae and she had broken her pelvis, several ribs and both legs. She was temporarily paralyzed for a while and was in a coma for 10 days. She recovered in Prague, and was then moved to a hospital in Belgrade, where she was kept under 24-hour police guard. Because she had survived the crash, authorities feared that she would be made an assassination target by the Croatian separatist terrorists responsible for the bombing.
After making a full recovery, Vulović intended to return to her job as a flight attendant. However, due to her status as a national hero, the airline refused to let her fly. They claimed that her status would bring anxiety to passengers, stating that it wasn’t safe for her to have her old job back. Therefore, she was given a desk job for the same airline.
In 2009, two journalists in Prague claimed that the plane might have been mistaken as an enemy one and shot down by forces. But after a year of research, Peter Hornung and Pavel Theiner said that they did not believe that the aircraft had been blown up by Croatian Air Forces. They claimed that it was extremely unlikely, but even so, no theories could have been supported. All evidence that pointed to the bomb was destroyed by Czechoslovak secret police.
Vulović also holds the world record for biggest fall without a parachute and was considered a celebrity in her home country of Serbia before she died of a heart attack at 66 years old. Even so, she never considered herself lucky. She claimed that if she was lucky, she would never have had the accident at all.