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Survivor story: world’s longest free fall without a parachute from 33.000ft

Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulović had a pretty normal life. Never did she pursue a dream like setting the world’s highest free fall without a parachute. It just wasn’t her thing.

It was only until that one fateful day on January 26 1972, that the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 she was on, blew up after some Croatian terrorist’s bomb detonated in the baggage compartment at an elevation of 10.160 meters, or 33.360 feet.

JAT McDonnell Douglas DC-9Vesna, who was 22 years old at the time, tumbled down for three long minutes (33.330 ft)  until the tail section of the airplane she was in hit a mountain side on Czechoslovakian soil. Out of the 22 other passengers on board her airplane, she was the only survivor. Vesna suffered a fractured skull, three broken vertebrae of which one was completely crushed and left her temporarily paralyzed from the waist down with two broken legs and was in a coma for 27 days. After awaking from her coma, the first thing that came to her mind was to ask a doctor for a cigarette.

According to experts who studied the crash, Vesna was pinned to the wall by a catering trolley, which prevented her from being sucked out of the aircraft while tumbling down. The tail cone of the DC-9 stayed intact during the free fall, which lowered the terminal velocity as a result of the higher air friction. The tail impacted the mountain slope at such an angle that it reduced the impact force, protecting Vesna from a fatal impact.

Vesna made a full recovery, stating that she has no fear of flying and actually enjoys watching movies with plane crashes. She was also awarded the Guinnes Book of Records title of ‘Highest fall without a parachute’ by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney in 1985.