This person survived a plane crash and 11 days in the Amazon jungle

Juliana Koepcke was 17 when she boarded a flight from Peru to Germany, when suddenly lightning struck the plane and it crashed as she fell 3 kilometers to the Amazon jungle.

 Juliana Koepcke (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Juliana Koepcke
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

This is the amazing story of Juliana Koepcke, a 17-year-old German girl born in Peru and who boarded a flight back to her country in December 1971.

Since Juliana wanted to make it home in time for Christmas to be with her family, she and her mother bought a plane ticket from LANSA and boarded it even though her father warned them to change flights because he was aware of the company's poor reputation.

Juliana boarded LANSA Flight 508 on Christmas Eve. Suddenly, at an altitude of over 3,000 meters above the ground, the plane she was in was struck by lightning, shattering into pieces and falling straight into the Amazon rainforest of South America.

The plane's 90 passengers and crew were killed instantly – except for Juliana, who fell into the forests of Peru.

The plane she was on was destroyed in the thunderstorm and crash, but a row of chairs ended up detaching and spinning through the air, with Juliana sitting in one of them.

Watch her story

She was certain this terrible plane crash would be the last thing she would ever see. But then, the unbelievable happened: She woke up in the forest with only minor injuries even though she crashed with the plane and fell from a height of three kilometers. 

Dressed in a torn short shirt and just one sandal, she set out on a journey of survival. In a forest teaming with mosquitoes, poisonous snakes and deadly spiders, the young and tough girl, the daughter of two veteran German zoologists, was determined to survive and reach civilization.

Juliana recounted that she saw a large white light above one of the plane's wings at the time of the crash. Then, the loud roar of the engine and the screams of the other passengers stopped. The next thing she knew, she told The New York Times, she was no longer inside the plane.

Juliana said she was outside and was likely the only one in her row wearing a seat belt. She suffered a broken collarbone, a deep cut on her arm and a swollen right eye. 

She said that being fastened to the chair softened the crash, which is what let her survive. 

Juliana's first desire after the crash was to find her mother, who was sitting next to her, but she wasn't able to. 

She later found out her mother survived the crash, but died of her injuries a few days later.

Juliana later managed to find sweets to serve as food. She began traveling along a flowing stream of water, following a survival principle learned from her father: There will always be people living next to large streams of water. 

The stream helped her have clean water to drink and a natural route to navigate the lush forest.

At night, Juliana was unable to sleep due to the many mosquito bites festering and getting infected.

After nine days, she found a boat next to a cabin, with the boat being filled with fuel. 

Using another survival principle learned from her father, she poured gasoline on her injured hand, killing the maggots as she waited for rescue, not starting the boat herself so she wouldn't be guilty of theft.

A few hours later, loggers who used the cabin for shelter at night arrived and found her, treating her mosquito bites and injuries. The next morning, she was put in a canoe on a journey that lasted seven hours. With the help of a local pilot, Juliana was flown to a hospital in Pucallpa, where her father was waiting.

Juliana's inspiring story was later told in books and films (in 2022, it was reported that Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner would star in a film based on her book).

Today, the 68-year-old lives happily and is considered a leading biologist in Germany. Her autobiography Als ich vom Himmel fiel was published on March 10, 2011, and won her a national prize for literature in Germany.