After surviving a fall of 10000 meters, after a mid-air plane explosion in 1972, Serbian flight attendant, Vesna Vulovic has died, aged 66, of unknown causes.
Her body was found by friends in her Belgrade apartment on Friday the 23rd of December.
On the 26th of January 1972, Vulovic had been working on a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 as a flight attendant when the plane exploded over the now former Czechoslovakia. Ironically she was not timetabled to even work on this flight, as there had been a mix up with another flight attendant also called Vesna.
Vulovic had been caught in the rear of the plane and is said to have survived due to this section landing in thickly snow coated pine branches along a slope in the mountain ranges. She had been trapped under a food trolley.
Her screams were heard by a woodsman from a nearby village, and providentially he had been a medic during World War II in the German Army, so was able to treat her immediately at the scene.
Vulovic slipped into a 27-day coma, having suffered two broken legs, three broken vertebrae, and a fractured skull.
The injuries caused her to become temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
Gradually she made a full recovery and went back to working for the same airline in a desk job. She always claimed to have no memory of the crash, and didn’t even develop a fear of flying.
Considered a national heroine in the former Yugoslavia, she was also awarded a title in the Guinness book of Records, which was presented to her in a ceremony in 1985, by Paul McCartney.
Vulovic also used her fame to express her political views, and it is thought that her status helped her to avoid arrest even after criticizing Slobodan Milosevic, though it did cost her her job at the airline.
Skeptics however have questioned whether or not Vulovnic did indeed survive such a large fall, even though the other 27 crew members and passengers perished.
One conspiracy theory involves the idea that the flight had been assumed to be an enemy aircraft, which the Czechoslovakian army mistakenly shot down. This would have meant that the plane started to break up at a lower altitude than previously assumed, and would explain Vulovnic’s survival.
The initial allegation had been that the plane had contained a bomb that had been placed there by Croatian Nationalists.
But investigative journalists, Pavel Theiner and Peter Hornung claimed that they had been made privy to secret documents that had been obtained from the Czech civilian aviation authority, which threw doubt onto the assertions.
Both the Czech civilian aviation authority and Vulovic rejected the conspiracy theory, claiming that the journalists were merely making an attempt at fame and notoriety in the media, and that there was no actual proof, just circumstantial evidence.
But it was enough to raise suspicion from a Guinness World Records representative. Nevertheless, she still holds their record title for “surviving the highest fall without a parachute”.