Vesna Vulovic was a flight attendant at Yugoslav Airlines when a bomb brought Douglas DC-9 down in Czechoslovakia on 26 January 1972. The flight 367 was scheduled to go from Stockholm to Copenhagen, then to Zagreb and finally to Belgrade.
Vulovic was trapped by a catering cart in the plane’s rear galley when the aircraft exploded at 33,000 feet and then fell to the ground among mountains. Trees broke the fall of the fuselage and snow on the hill absorbed its landing.
She survived. Her miraculous survival remains the record height for surviving a free fall without a parachute.
All of the other 27 passengers and crew on board died.
It was suspected that a bomb was placed inside the aircraft during a stopover in Copenhagen, Denmark, but nothing was ever proven.
In 2009 two investigative journalists in Prague, Peter Hornung and Pavel Theiner claimed the plane was probably shot down by the Czechoslovak Air Force at an altitude of only 800 meters.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Vulovic fell into a coma for 10 days. She suffered a fractured skull and broken legs. Three vertebrae were broken, and she was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. She didn’t remember the flight or her descent.
“I was broken, and the doctors put me back together again,” she told the New York Times in 2008. “Nobody ever expected me to live this long.”
She was fired from her job at the airline in 1990 after taking part in protests against President Slobodan Milosevic but avoided arrest. She continued for two more decades to fight against nationalism.
“I am like a cat, I have had nine lives,” she told the New York Times. “But if nationalist forces in this country prevail, my heart will burst.”
She passed away at home in 2016 at the age of 66.