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  • On December 24, 1971, LANSA 508 from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru

  • was struck by lightning.

  • Now considered the deadliest lightning strike

  • in aviation history, it caused a crash

  • that ultimately led to the demise of everyone onboard,

  • except for one 17-year-old girl.

  • Today, we're going to explain how Juliane Koepcke survived

  • a plane crash and 11 days alone in the Amazon.

  • But before we get started, be sure to subscribe

  • to the Weird History Channel.

  • And while you're at it, leave a comment

  • and let us know what stories of survival

  • you would like to hear more about.

  • OK, we go to the skies over Peru.

  • Koepcke's hazy disjointed recollections

  • of the flight and the crash are nothing short of pure nightmare

  • fuel.

  • It was the day after her senior prom

  • and just a few hours after her high school graduation

  • ceremony.

  • She was flying with her mother between Pucallpa and Lima

  • so they could celebrate with her father.

  • Along the way, the plane encountered a storm.

  • The sky became pitch black all around them.

  • And lightning was constantly flashing outside the windows.

  • While her mother was concerned, Juliane, who loved to fly,

  • didn't think much of it.

  • Suddenly, there was a bright light on the wing.

  • And her mother said, now, it's over.

  • The engine roared.

  • People screamed.

  • The plane plunged sharply towards the ground

  • and began to break apart.

  • Juliane's mother was thrown from her seat.

  • Finally, Juliane, along with her seat bench,

  • was sucked from the fuselage and out into the sky.

  • Koepcke says she felt a calming wind

  • as she plummeted toward the thick forest canopy, which

  • she later recalled as resembling green cauliflower or broccoli.

  • Her seat, which she was still belted to,

  • rotated like a helicopter blade.

  • She suspects this may have played a role in slowing

  • her descent and that the seat itself

  • must have cushioned her fall.

  • Yeah, think about that the next time a flight attendant

  • reminds you to buckle up.

  • Juliane blacked out before impact.

  • And due to a concussion, she retains no memory

  • of the next 20 hours or so.

  • She suspects she must have awakened during this period

  • and removed her seat belt because it was off

  • by the time she fully regained consciousness.

  • It was 9:00 AM the morning after the crash.

  • In fact, she could tell thanks to her watch,

  • which at this point was still functioning.

  • It was also pouring rain.

  • Koepcke was soaking wet, dirty, and partially

  • underneath her seat bench.

  • She crawled fully under to escape the rain while she

  • regained her strength.

  • According to Koepcke, I couldn't really feel anything.

  • It was like being wrapped in cotton balls.

  • With a lot of effort, I could only get up on my knees.

  • And then everything turned black again.

  • It would be a full day and a half

  • before she was able to get up and walk.

  • Juliane could tell her collarbone was badly broken.

  • It was a sharp break that was overlapping beneath her skin

  • but luckily had not punctured through.

  • She also had a deep laceration on her calf.

  • But because she was in shock, it wasn't bleeding too much.

  • Another cut on her arm had become infected with maggots.

  • She feared that this might mean the arm would eventually

  • have to be amputated.

  • But at this point, there was nothing she could do about it.

  • Doctors would later discover she also fractured her shin,

  • strained her vertebra, and tore her ACL.

  • Likely due to the effects of adrenaline,

  • she didn't feel any of those things until much later

  • after she had reached a hospital.

  • Once she felt strong enough, Juliane

  • forced herself to her feet.

  • Most people would probably be terrified to find themselves

  • alone and injured in the middle of a jungle teeming

  • with snakes, crocodiles, and all manner of poisonous flora

  • and fauna.

  • But Juliane Koepcke had a very unique childhood.

  • Her mother, a world-renowned ornithologist, and her father,

  • a famous zoologist, worked at a research station in--

  • would you believe it--

  • a Peruvian rainforest.

  • Yes, Juliane had been raised in a very similar area.

  • And her familiarity with the types of terrain

  • was a major factor in her survival.

  • It also meant she never became overly afraid of her situation.

  • Koepcke herself mused, I learned a lot about life

  • in the rainforest.

  • And it wasn't too dangerous.

  • It's not the green hell that the world always thinks.

  • No.

  • Juliane wasn't afraid for herself.

  • She was afraid for her mother.

  • Once she was able, Koepcke began to scout the area immediately

  • around her crash site for other survivors and resources.

  • She was careful to leave a trail since she knew how easy it

  • was to get lost in the jungle.

  • On the fourth day after the crash,

  • she heard a sound she recognized as a king vulture landing

  • in the forest.

  • She knew from her ornithologist mother

  • that this particular type of vulture

  • only landed when carrion or rotting flesh was

  • in the immediate vicinity.

  • Following the sound, she discovered the remains

  • of three other passengers.

  • Still strapped to their seats, they

  • had impacted the ground with such force

  • that they were buried 3 feet deep with only

  • their feet remaining visible.

  • One of the victims was a woman.

  • And Koepcke initially feared it might be her mother.

  • However, poking her with a stick,

  • she was able to discern that the woman had painted toenails,

  • which her mother did not.

  • During those first few days, Koepcke

  • would occasionally hear the sounds of rescue planes

  • overhead.

  • Because the forest canopy was so thick,

  • she wasn't able to see them.

  • More frustratingly, she could not get their attention.

  • Eventually, the sounds of the planes disappeared.

  • And she realized they were no longer searching for survivors.

  • She would later describe these as her most hopeless moments.

  • And she realized she would have to rely

  • on herself if she was going to escape the rainforest alive.

  • Finding water was as simple as licking droplets off leaves.

  • But finding food was no easy task.

  • She didn't have the tools necessary to fish or hack

  • at edible stems and roots.

  • And she knew a great deal of what else

  • grew in the rainforest was poisonous.

  • Though it wasn't much, Koepcke had

  • been lucky enough to discover a bag of candy

  • near where she landed.

  • That candy would be her only sustenance.

  • And she rationed it carefully, eating just a couple

  • of pieces each day.

  • Once it was gone, she experienced extreme hunger.

  • At one point, Juliane briefly considered

  • trying to catch and eat some wild frogs she had spotted

  • but discovered she was too weak and slow to get them.

  • This ultimately turned out to be a good thing since she later

  • learned they were venomous dart frogs that

  • likely would have ended her.

  • Juliane searched the area she landed and for other survivors.

  • But she didn't find any.

  • She did, however, find a small well.

  • It reminded her of some advice her father had given her

  • as a child.

  • He told her if she was ever lost in the jungle,

  • she should follow the water sources to find rescue.

  • The idea was that each tiny stream

  • would lead to a bigger one and eventually to one big enough

  • to be a water source for potential rescuers.

  • Juliane has stated that had she found other survivors,

  • she probably would have stayed put and waited with them.

  • In hindsight, she realized that likely

  • would have cost her her life.

  • Without anyone else to wait with,

  • she decided to start at the well and follow the water.

  • Progress was slow and difficult. Koepcke

  • was wearing only a short sleeveless mini

  • dress, which made the nights very cold for her.

  • Her watch had also stopped working,

  • which meant she had to keep a close eye on the sun

  • to tell time.

  • She was also missing a shoe, which

  • was particularly worrisome, given

  • that she knew there were snakes that

  • liked to camouflage themselves among the leaves on the forest

  • floor.

  • Complicating things even further was the fact

  • that she had also lost her glasses in the plane crash.

  • Taken together, all this meant that she had to constantly use

  • her remaining shoe to probe the path ahead of her

  • before she could take even one step.

  • Eventually, the creek she was following

  • became deep enough to walk in.

  • Despite the fact that Koepcke could see crocodiles slipping

  • in and out of the water, she knew they seldom

  • bothered humans and that by traveling by water

  • was ultimately safer than traveling by land.

  • As she followed the water, Koepcke

  • noticed that the way was often blocked by logs--

  • a sign that the area wasn't well traveled and might not

  • lead her to rescuers.

  • Blocking these discouraging thoughts out,

  • Juliane continued on.

  • Then on the 10th day after the crash of LANSA flight 508,

  • Koepcke spotted a boat.

  • At first, she thought she was hallucinating.

  • But she moved toward it and found herself actually

  • able to touch it.

  • Once she determined the boat was real, her adrenaline kicked in.

  • Near the riverbank where she spotted the boat,

  • Koepcke saw a path leading up into the forest.

  • Assuming her rescuers had gone in that direction,

  • she tried to make her own way up the path.

  • By this point, she was so weak she could only crawl.

  • Even worse, the maggots that had infected

  • the cut on her right arm were causing her intense pain,

  • as they tried to burrow further into the wound.

  • Luckily at the top of the path, she

  • came across a small hut that had a can of gasoline in it.

  • She recalled that in her childhood,

  • her father had used kerosene to treat

  • a dog who had a similar wound.

  • Juliane sucked the gasoline from the can

  • and applied it to her wound.

  • The pain was intense, but it worked.

  • She removed 30 maggots herself.

  • Her rescuers would later remove another 50.

  • But thanks to this quick-thinking action,

  • she never had to lose her arm.

  • With no one else in sight, Koepcke

  • tried to sleep in the hut under a tarp

  • but found the ground too hard.

  • She returned to the riverbank and spent the night there.

  • In the morning, she returned to the hut.

  • This time, she was discovered by three Peruvian men.

  • They were confused by her presence

  • and frightened by her bloodshot eyes and blond hair.

  • Koepcke later explained they believe in all sorts of ghosts

  • there.

  • And at first they thought it was one of these water

  • spirits called Yemania.

  • They are blond supposedly.

  • Luckily, Juliane spoke fluent Spanish

  • and was able to explain her situation to them

  • in their own language.

  • The next day these men took her downstream in their boat

  • to a nearby town where she was able to get treatment

  • at a local hospital.

  • Juliane was the only survivor of LANSA a flight 508.

  • But it's interesting to note the crash almost claimed one more.

  • Film Director Werner Herzog was almost on the flight.

  • But a last-minute change in plans

  • caused him to cancel his reservations.

  • Inspired by this twist of fate, he

  • would later create the documentary Wings of Hope

  • to tell the incredible tale of Juliane Koepcke's survival.

  • Do you think you could survive what Juliane did?

  • Let us know in the comments below.

  • And while you're at it, check out some of these other videos

  • from our Weird History.

  • [MUSIC PLAYING]

On December 24, 1971, LANSA 508 from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru