Juliane Koepcke – Sole survivor of plane crash in the Amazon forest

By Narendra V

juliane koepcke

Juliane Koepckejuliane koepcke

Juliane Koepcke was sole survivor of crash of LANSA (Peruvian local airline) flight 508 which happened on 24th December 1971 with 92 passengers and crew travelling from Lima, Peru to Pucallpa, Peru. Juliane was High School senior, 17 years old at that time and she was travelling with her mother Maria Koepcke to Pucallpa, Peru to see her father Hans Wilhelm Koepke.

The crash

LANSA flight 508 was scheduled from Lima, Peru to Iquitos via Pucallpa on 24th December 1971. The flight started from Lima International Airport around 11:45 am. During the flight first half hour was pleasant, weather suddenly changes and there were severe thunderstorms and lightning in the flight path, the flight crew continued their flight in that hazardous weather the aircraft shakes violently as the clouds gather and the plane cabin becomes dark in the middle of the day and suddenly a lightning struck the aircraft right wing blowing the engine and fuel tank. Then the aircraft falls steeply towards the ground from 3km from the sky and broke apart in the middle fells into Amazon rain forest.

Juliane was sitting next to her mother and she was belted to the seat when the lightning struck as she fell to the ground lost consciousness and she wakes up next day, she had broken collar bone, a swollen shut eye and several lacerations in her arms and legs, she was disoriented couldn’t able to walk properly. She searches for her mother for one day but in vain. She searches for food only to find a bag of candy, her only food for the coming days. In the middle of the Amazon forest alone without any gear or food and with only one shoe but with determination to survive out of the forest she remembers her father’s teachings about survival skills.

She follows downstream the river to find any civilization. Her sight was also reduced due to loss of glasses during fall. She walks on the banks of the river for several days eating candy drinking river water, fearing of snakes she puts her steps carefully. She avoids many crocodiles she saw in the river, fighting off swarms of insects, leeches. As days passed her injuries become infected and one wound was infested with maggots, she tries to remove them but fails. On tenth day she finds a boat and a hut which were empty and she finds diesel fuel which she takes and pours on her wounds with maggots the technique she learnt from her father successfully pulls maggots out. She takes rest in the hut, next day when she wakes up she hears voices comes out to see some lumbermen came there, they see her unbelievably fears her to be a ghost, but after she tells about the crash they believe her and give her some food and first-aid to her wounds. They take her to their village in a boat which is seven hours ride from there.

After arriving at the village she was helped by a local pilot to fly to Pucallpa and admitted her in a hospital there. Her father reunites with her in the hospital.



Aftermath the crash and survival

Juliane recovers slowly from horrors of that ordeal. She goes to Germany for higher studies and does a PhD in Zoology. She writes her memories in a book called ‘When I fell from the sky’ in German language. Her story has been made into a feature film and a documentary.


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