Ser­bian stew­ardess who sur­vived jet crash in 1972 dies at 66

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Vesna Vulovic, a Ser­bian stew­ardess who mirac­u­lously sur­vived a plunge from 10,000 me­ters (33,000 feet) af­ter her plane ex­ploded in mid-air in 1972, has died. She was 66.

Ser­bia's state TV said Satur­day Vulovic was found dead by her friends in her apart­ment in Bel­grade. The cause of death was not im­me­di­ately known. Vulovic was work­ing as a Yu­goslav Air­lines flight at­ten­dant on Jan. 26, 1972, when the Dou­glas DC-9 air­liner she was aboard blew up high above the snowy moun­tain ranges of Cze­choslo­vakia. All 27 other pas­sen­gers and crew aboard per­ished.

Vulovic en­tered the Guin­ness Book of Records in 1985 for "the high­est fall sur­vived with­out a para­chute." It was sus­pected that a bomb was planted in­side the jet dur­ing a sched­uled stopover in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, but no ar­rests were ever made.

Trapped in the plane's tail cone, she plum­meted to earth in sub-freezing tem­per­a­tures and landed on a steep, heav­ily wooded slope near a village. The fuse­lage tum­bled through pine branches and into a thick coat­ing of snow, soft­en­ing the im­pact and cush­ion­ing its de­scent down the hill, crash in­ves­ti­ga­tors said at the time.

Vulovic was res­cued by a woods­man who fol­lowed her screams in the dark for­est. She was rushed to a hospi­tal, where she fell into a coma for 10 days. She had a frac­tured skull, two crushed ver­te­brae and a bro­ken pelvis, ribs and legs.

Ini­tially par­a­lyzed from the waist down, Vulovic even­tu­ally made a near-full re­cov­ery and even re­turned to work for the air­line in a desk job.

She never re­gained mem­ory of the ac­ci­dent or her res­cue. She told the AP in an in­ter­view in 2008 that she could only re­call greet­ing pas­sen­gers be­fore take­off from the air­port in Den­mark - and then wak­ing up in the hospi­tal with her mother at her side.

An in­stant na­tional hero­ine, she went on to put her celebrity at the ser­vice of po­lit­i­cal causes, protest­ing against Slo­bo­dan Milo­se­vic's rule in the 1990s and later cam­paign­ing for lib­eral forces in elec­tions. — AP

—AP

In this Fri­day, Feb. 15, 2008 file photo, Vesna Vulovic, an ex-air stew­ardess, and sur­vivor of a fall from 10,000 me­ters when in 1972 her plane was blown up in mid-fight by a bomb, ges­tures as she gives an in­ter­view to the As­so­ci­ated Press in Bel­grade, Ser­bia.

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