Vesna Vulovic, who survived a midair explosion in 1972, has died at the age of 66. Authorities confirmed the “miracle” woman was found dead in her Belgrade, Serbia, home. However, her cause of death is unknown at this time.
On January 1972, Vesna Vulovic, who was working as a flight attendant for Jugoslavenski Aerotransport, was unexpectedly scheduled to work on a flight from Stockholm, Sweden to Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
According to reports, Vulovic was inadvertently given the schedule of another flight attendant — who was also named Vesna. However, as reported by Guinness World Records, Vesna Vulovic “was happy for the mistake, as it afforded her the opportunity to see Denmark and to stay in a Sheraton Hotel, which she had always dreamed of doing.”
The then 23-year-old woman was unaware JAT Yugoslav Flight 364 was targeted by a terrorist group.
Although there are numerous conspiracy theories, authorities concluded a Croatian fascist group called the Ustashe planted explosives in the plane’s forward cargo bay during a layover in Copenhagen, Denmark. The homemade bomb was detonated as the Douglas DC-9 approached the Czechoslovakian village of Srbská Kamenice.
The initial explosion and the impact of the subsequent crash killed 27 passengers and crew. However, Vesna Vulovic miraculously survived both.
The specific details remain a point of controversy. However, investigators believe Vesna was trapped near the tail of the plane when the explosion occurred. As reported by BBC, authorities determined, “The tail landed in a heavily wooded and snow-blanketed part of a mountainside, which was thought to have cushioned the impact.”
The wreckage was discovered by a German woodsman named Bruno Honke. According to reports, Honke utilized the skills he learned as a military medic to keep Vesna Vulovic.
Although she survived the explosion and impact, Vesna was critically injured in the disaster. In addition to two broken legs, a broken pelvis, and three crushed vertebrae, the flight attendant suffered a broken skull and was in a coma for more than four weeks.
When she awoke from the coma, Vulovic was paralyzed from the waist down and had no memory of the devastating crash. However, she underwent numerous surgeries, and eventually regained use of her legs.
Interestingly, Vesna Vulovic’s amnesia prevented her from experiencing the psychological issues commonly associated with trauma. Therefore, she went back to work for Jugoslavenski Aerotransport and never expressed a fear of flying.
It is unclear how Vesna survived the 33,000-foot fall. However, it is suspected that a food cart, which was pressed against the flight attendant amid the explosion, served as a makeshift restraint.
As her body was trapped in the tail of the plane, she was spared from the biggest impact of the explosion. Investigators also noted the tail of the plane broke away and landed in deep snow.
Doctors believe Vulovic’s history of low blood pressure, likely “caused her to pass out quickly and prevented her heart from bursting.”
In 1985, Vesna’s name was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for the “highest fall survived without a parachute.” Although she was considered to be a “miracle” and one of the luckiest women alive, Vulovic said she does not believe she is lucky.
“Everybody thinks I am lucky, but they are mistaken. If I were lucky I would never have had this accident and my mother and father would be alive. The accident ruined their lives too.”
As reported by Daily Record, Vesna later compared her survival to the survival of the Serbians as a whole.
“We Serbians are true survivors. We survived communism, Tito, the war, poverty, NATO bombings, sanctions and Milošević. We only want a normal life. I just want a normal life.”
On December 26, 1972, doctors predicted Vesna would soon die of the injuries sustained in the explosion and subsequent crash of JAT Yugoslav Flight 364. However, against all odds, she lived 44 more years.
According to reports, Vesna Vulovic’s friends found her unresponsive in her apartment on Christmas Eve. At this time, authorities have not released the cause of the 66-year-old woman’s death.
[Featured Image by AP Photo]