Vesna Vulovic, The Flight Attendant Who Survived A 30,000 Feet Fall From Plane Without Parachute

And lived to tell the tale...

Vesna Vulovic, The Flight Attendant Who Survived A 30,000 Feet Fall From Plane Without Parachute

Vesna Vulović, a flight attendant onboard JAT Yugoslav Airlines Flight 367, experienced a harrowing ordeal that would etch her name into the record books and the annals of sheer human resilience.

We’ve heard some wild travel stories in our time — from the man who urinated all over business class to a Chinese time traveller waxing lyrical mid-flight — but this might just be the strangest to date… On the 26th of January 1972, an ill-fated flight from Stockholm to Belgrade suddenly disintegrated into three pieces, killing everyone om board… except Vesna Vulović.

Plummeting 33,333 feet (10,160 meters; 6.31 miles) without a parachute, Vulović miraculously survived what remains the highest free fall without any safety equipment, as reported by Guinness World Records.

The tragic event unfolded just 46 minutes after takeoff when an explosion in the luggage compartment tore the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft apart. The rapid decompression caused passengers and crew to be sucked out of the aircraft into the freezing void.

Vulović’s miraculous survival was attributed to her being pinned down by a food cart in the tail end of the fuselage which separated from the rest of the plane. This portion of the aircraft crash-landed in a wooded area near Srbská Kamenice, Czechoslovakia, cushioning Vesna’s impact and increasing her chances of survival.

Additionally, Vesna’s low blood pressure caused her to lose consciousness when the cabin depressurized, preventing her heart from bursting upon impact. She was discovered screaming inside the wreckage by Bruno Honke, a local villager and World War II medic, who administered crucial first aid before rescue teams arrived.

Despite surviving the fall, Vesna sustained grievous injuries, including a fractured skull, two broken legs, three broken vertebrae, a fractured pelvis, several broken ribs, and temporary paralysis below the waist. Astonishingly, she managed to walk again after a mere ten months, albeit with a permanent limp due to the twisting of her spine.

Unsurprisingly, her memory of the crash and the subsequent month was completely erased. Nevertheless, Vulović instantly became a national icon in Yugoslavia: she was honoured by President Josip Broz Tito and a hit song titled “Vesna stjuardesa” (“Vesna the Stewardess”) by Serbian folk singer Miroslav Ilić paid tribute to her resilience.

In 1985, Vesna Vulović entered the Guinness World Records Hall of Fame for achieving the highest fall survived without a parachute. An unexpected but much-deserved bonus awaited her during the ceremony in the form of Paul McCartney, who presented her with a certificate and medal. Vesna and her friends, who had grown up listening to The Beatles, cherished this moment forevermore.

While it’s an incredible world record accompanied by a miraculous story, we don’t advise anyone trying to top this record themselves… no matter how badly you might want to meet your favourite popstar.