More than Luck

The recent rescue of a twelve year old girl from the Indian Ocean after her plane crashed enroute to Yemen is nothing short of miraculous.

A boat responding to the plane’s distress call found Bahia Bakari in 16 foot waves trying to grasp a floating piece of wood. Bakari, who had been in the water for 13 hours, suffered only a broken collarbone and hypothermia. It is believed that the other 150+ passengers and crew perished.

CNN dove-tailed their coverage of the Yemen incident with this amazing survival story:

…It was Christmas Eve, 1971, when (Juliane) Koepcke, then aged 17, and her mother boarded a Lockheed Electra turboprop for a flight from Lima, Peru, to Pucallpa in the Amazonian rainforest. Her parents, both famous zoologists, ran a research station in the jungle studying wildlife.

The airline, LANSA, had already lost two aircraft in previous crashes. "We knew the airline had a bad reputation," Koepcke told CNN, "but we desperately wanted to be with my father for Christmas, so we figured it would be alright."

The flight was supposed to last for less than an hour and for the first 25 minutes everything was fine, Koepcke recalled.

"Then we flew into heavy clouds and the plane started shaking. My mother was very nervous. Then to the right we saw a bright flash and the plane went into a nose dive. My mother said, 'This is it!'"

An accident investigation later found that one of the fuel tanks of the Lockheed Electra had been hit by a bolt of lightning which had torn the right wing off.

"We were headed straight down. Christmas presents were flying around the cabin and I could hear people screaming."

As the plane broke into pieces in midair, Koepcke was thrust out into the open air:

"Suddenly there was this amazing silence. The plane was gone. I must have been unconscious and then came to in midair. I was flying, spinning through the air and I could see the forest spinning beneath me."

Then Koepcke lost consciousness again. She fell more than three kilometers (two miles) into the jungle canopy but miraculously survived with only minor injuries. Ninety-one other people aboard Flight 508 died…

Her collarbone was broken, her right eye swollen shut, she was suffering concussion and had large gashes on her arms and legs.

"I didn't wake up until nine o'clock the next morning. I know this because my watch was still working. So I must have been unconscious the whole afternoon and the night. When I came to I was alone, just me ... and my row of seats."

Her ordeal was far from over. Rescue planes and search crews were unable to locate the crash site and Koepcke was stranded in the jungle alone. But she had spent years on the research station with her parents and her father had taught her how to survive in the rainforest -- she knew how to cope in that environment.

"He said if you find a creek, follow it because that will lead to a stream and a stream will lead to a bigger river and that's where you'll find help."

The day after the crash she found a creek and started to wade down stream, but it was tough going. The only food she had was some candy she had found at the crash site and her wounds were quickly infested with parasites.

"I had a cut on my arm and after a few days I could feel there was something in it. I took a look and a fly had laid her eggs in the hole. It was full of maggots. I was afraid I would lose my arm.

Later, after I was rescued it was treated and more than 50 maggots were found inside. I still wonder how so many maggots could have fitted into that little hole, it was no bigger than a one euro coin."

As she travelled downstream, Koepcke discovered more wreckage from the plane -- and found some of the crash victims...
You can read more of the CNN article and learn how Koepcke reaches freedom by going here.

Luck or divine intervention (whatever your preference) plays a role in all of these unbelievable stories. The will to live, displayed in treading water for 13 hours in a violent ocean or walking solo in the jungle while collecting leeches and dodging crocs, must then be matched with the person’s good fortune to stand a chance at survival.

Note: The image is from CNN's website of Juliane Koepcke.


lentziu said...

amazing story... she really was lucky

J. J. in Phila said...

Very lucky indeed.

Ironically, the maggots might have helped. Their saliva is a natural antibiotic.

Erin said...

The human survival instinct is incredible.

angelcel said...

Probably proving, I think, that if it's not your time to go then you will be spared. I also agree with Erin, our survival instinct is incredible. We can overcome more than we realise when the need arises.