A FLIGHT attendant who survived a 10 kilometre fall after her plane exploded has died aged 66. According to Serbian state TV, Vesna Vulovic was found by her friends in her apartment in Belgrade. The Sun reports that the cause of death was not immediately known.
Vulovic was working as a flight attendant on a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 plane when a suspected bomb brought the plane down from 33,000ft (10 kilometres) in Czechoslovakia on 26 January 1972. All of the other 27 passengers and crew on board died. According to investigators, Vulovic was trapped by a food cart in the plane’s tail when the bomb exploded.
She plummeted back to earth in the tail in subzero temperatures, where she landed on a steep, snow-covered slope near a village, which is believed to have softened her fall.
She was found by woodsman Bruno Honke, who heard her screaming in the dark as the rest of the plane came crashing to the ground. While investigators suspect the bomb had been planted in the plane during a stopover in Copenhagen, Denmark, nothing was ever proven and no arrests were ever made. Following the horrific crash, Vulovic fell into a coma for 10 days.
She suffered a fractured skull, two crushed vertebrae, and had broken her pelvis, ribs, and both legs. She was temporarily paralysed from the waist down, but made a near-full recovery, and returned to work for the same airline, albeit in a desk-bound position. Speaking to the New York Times in 2008, Vulovic recalled the nightmare: “I was broken, and the doctors put me back together again.
“Nobody ever expected me to live this long.” Vulovic entered the Guinness Book of Records in 1985 for the highest fall survived without a parachute. She never regained any memory of the accident or of her rescue, and continued to fly as a passenger as a result. She told the paper: “People always want to sit next to me on the plane.”
“I am like a cat, I have had nine lives.”
Her story won her fame and celebrity in Serbia, which she channelled into political campaigning. This article originally appeared in The Sun.