A high school student was sucked out of an airplane after it was struck by lightning. She fell 3.2 kilometers to the ground still strapped to her chair and lived. Only to endure a 9 day walk to the nearest civilzation
“Juliane Koepcke was a German Peruvian high school senior student studying in Lima, intending to become a zoologist, like her parents. She and her mother, ornithologist Maria Koepcke, were traveling to meet with her father, biologist Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, who was working in the city of Pucallpa.
The airplane was struck by lightning during a severe thunderstorm and broke up in mid-air, disintegrating at 3.2 km (10,000 ft). Koepcke, who was seventeen years old at the time, fell to earth still strapped into her seat. She survived the fall with only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm, and her right eye swollen shut. “”I was definitely strapped in [the airplane seat] when I fell,”” she remembered. “”It must have turned and buffered the crash, otherwise I wouldn’t have survived.””
Her first priority was to find her mother, who had been seated next to her on the plane but her search was unsuccessful. With her eyeglasses lost and one eye swollen shut, she struggled to no avail. She later found out her mother had initially survived the crash as well, but died several days later due to her injuries.
Koepcke found some sweets which were to become her only food on her trip. After looking for her mother and other passengers, she was soon able to locate a small stream. She then waded through knee-high water downstream from her landing site, relying on the survival principle her father had taught her, that tracking downstream should eventually lead to civilization. The stream also provided clean water and a natural path through the dense rainforest vegetation.
During the trip, Koepcke couldn’t sleep at night due to numerous insect bites, which became infected. After nine days, several spent floating downstream, she found a boat moored near a shelter, where she found the boat’s motor and fuel tank. Relying again on her father’s advice, Koepcke poured gasoline on her wounds, which managed to extract thirty five maggots from one arm, then waited until some men came.
“”I remember having seen my father when he cured a dog of worms in the jungle with gasoline I got some gasoline and poured it on myself. I counted the worms when they started to slip out. There were 35 on my arm. I remained there but I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to take the boat because I didn’t want to steal it.””
Hours later, the lumbermen who used the shelter arrived and tended to her injuries and bug infestations. The next morning they took her via a seven-hour canoe ride down the river to a lumber station in the Tournavista District. With the help of a local pilot, she was airlifted to a hospital – and her waiting father – in Pucallpa.”