Do you remember the crash of LANSA Flight 508? If not, you probably have not heard of Juliane Koepcke (now known as Juliane Diller). On December 24, 1971, the plan left Lima to Pucallpa, Peru. A significant thunderstorm caused the plane to crash. Ninety-one people were killed, including all six of the crew and 85 of 86 passengers. The crash resulted in it being the deadliest lightning strike disaster in history. The 86th passenger, Juliane Koepcke, 17, survived. While remaining strapped in her seatbelt, the young woman fell 9,200 feet, landing in the Amazon rainforest. Miraculously, she survived the fall. She then wandered through the jungle for 11 days until local lumbermen saved her.
Christmas Eve Flight
The Lockheed L-188A Electra was about 21,000 feet above sea level. It flew into an area of thunderstorms and severe turbulence. Although no one will ever know for sure, evidence indicated the crew decided to continue the flight despite the harsh weather. It is believed they did so because of the pressure to meet the holiday schedule. The Peruvian investigators called the crash an “intentional flight into hazardous weather conditions.” It was a miracle that Juliane Koepcke survived.
Juliane Koepcke Suffered Injuries
The only survivor of the crash suffered a broken collar bone, a major gash to her right arm, an eye injury, and a concussion. Even so, Juliane managed to hike through the dense forest. She found shelter in a hut. After the lumbermen found her on Day 11, they took her back to civilization in a canoe.
Made Into A Movie
The story was made into a movie, “Miracles Still Happen” (1974). Juliane’s story was also told during a 1998 documentary film, “Wings of Hope.” On March 10, 2011, her memoir was published, “When I Fell From the Sky.”
Today And Yesterday
Koepcke was born in 1954 in Lima, Peru. She was the only child born to her German parents who both worked at the Museum of Natural History in Lima. Her father was a biologist, and her mother was an ornithologist. Three years before the accident, the family left Peru to establish Panguana, a research station in the Amazon rainforest. Fortunately for Juliane, she became a “jungle child” and learned survival skills to survive in the situation she faced on that day. Today she is married and works as a German Peruvian mammalogist.
How fortunate that Juliane learned survival skills as a child. She certainly was able to put them to good use – resulting in saving her own life.