Born January 3, 1950, Vesna Vulovic was a Serbian flight attendant who holds the world record for the highest fall with no parachute: 6.31 miles.
Vesna was the sole survivor after a briefcase bomb tore through the airplane she was on. No one was ever arrested for planting the bomb.
She spent day in a coma and was in the hospital for months with a fractured skull, 3 broken vertebrae, broken legs, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. She was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, but recovered to only walk with a limp.
She had no memory of the incident after, and thus had no problems flying the remainder of her life. However, she was given a desk job instead of returning to her job as a flight attendant, as the airline felt her presence on a flight would bring about too much publicity.
She was eventually fired for partaking in an anti-government protest, but avoided arrest because it would bring bad press, as she had become something as a celebrity.
Her final years were spent alone and grappling with survivor's guilt. She passed away in 2016.
THE FLIGHT AND THE FALL
Vesna was not scheduled to be the flight attendant on JAT flight 367. Her name got mixed up with another flight attendant named Vesna. However, always down for an adventure and having never visited Denmark, she decided to go.
She said she felt like the crew knew they were going to die before the flight. She wanted to sight see, but everyone just wanted to shop for their families and talk about their children.
She and other crew members saw a man who looked annoyed and agitated once they arrived at the airport. She assumes he was the bomber, thinking he checked a bag and never boarded the flight.
The bomb tore through the baggage compartment and the plane broke over Czechoslovakian village, and everybody was killed.
Vesna was discovered by a villager who heard her screaming. She was covered in blood and debris. The person who found her was a WWII medic and was able to keep her alive.
It is believed that Vesna survived because of where she happened to be at the moment the plane depressurized. When it depressurized, everyone was blown out of their aircraft and fell to their deaths. However, she was pinned behind a beverage cart which kept her attached to something instead of blowing her out of the plane. She also landed in an area covered in snow which cushioned her fall.
Additionally, she had low blood pressure, something that almost kept her from being a flight attendant. She said that she drank a lot of coffee to get her BP to a normal level to be allowed to be a flight attendant. In the end, her low blood pressure may have saved her life, because it caused her to pass out so her heart didn't burst on impact.
RECOVERY AND LIFE AFTER
Vesna spent days in a coma, suffering total amnesia from 1 hour before the explosion to 1 month after. She didn't find out about what happened until 2 weeks after, and fainted when she saw the headlines and had to be tranquilized to keep calm.
She was watched closely in the hospital, with law enforcement worrying that whoever planted the bomb may come after her to finish the job.
When she flew home, she was offered medication for the ride to stay calm, but refused because she didn't remember the crash and thus had no anxiety getting on the plane.
She held the record for longest fall and became something of a celebrity. She denied therapy and became a devout Christian to try to handle the survivor's guilt she feels, though she admits she doesn't think about it every day.
She married and tried to have children, but after an ectopic pregnancy found she was unable to have children. She and her husband ultimately divorced.
Though many think she is lucky to have survived such an ordeal, she doesn't feel lucky. She survived on a small pension in a run-down Belgrade apartment. Her parents died soon after the fall, and she feels like they have have lived longer if not put through the stress of the incident. She became tired of discussing her fall.
In December of 2016, her friends became concerned when they hadn't heard from her in a while, and her body was discovered in her apartment.
Though her life ended up more average than extraordinary, falling over 6 miles from an airplane explosion and surviving is an amazing feat that many people may not know about, and it happened 48 years ago today.