Juliane Koepcke (b. 10 October 1954 in Lima, Peru), also known by her
married name Juliane Diller, is a German mammalogist. As a teenager,
Koepcke was the sole passenger to survive the
LANSA Flight 508
LANSA Flight 508 plane
crash and her story of surviving not only the crash but 11 days alone
Amazon rainforest has received a steady amount of media
attention over the past four decades.
1 Early life
5 See also
7 External links
Juliane Margaret Beate Koepcke was born in
Lima, Peru on 10 October
1954, the daughter of
Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke (1914-2000) and Maria
Koepcke (née Maria von Mikulicz-Radecki, 1924-1971). Both her parents
were zoologists from Germany, having moved to
Peru after completing
their graduate work in order to study Neotropical wildlife. As a
child, Koepcke lived in Miraflores, an affluent area of Lima.
Koepcke was a
German Peruvian high school senior student studying in
Lima, intending to become a zoologist, like her parents. On December
24, 1971 she and her mother, ornithologist Maria Koepcke, were
traveling to meet with her father, biologist Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke,
who was working in the city of Pucallpa.
The LANSA Lockheed Electra OB-R-941 commercial airliner was struck by
lightning during a severe thunderstorm and broke up in mid-air,
disintegrating at 3.2 km (10,000 ft). Koepcke, who was
seventeen years old, fell to earth still strapped into her seat. She
survived the fall with only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right
arm, and her right eye swollen shut. "I was definitely strapped in
[the airplane seat] when I fell," she said later. "It must have turned
and buffered the crash, otherwise I wouldn't have survived."
Her first priority was to find her mother, who had been seated next to
her, and her search was unsuccessful. She later found out her mother
had initially survived the crash, but died from her injuries several
Koepcke found some sweets which were to become her only food. After
looking for her mother and other passengers, she was able to locate a
small stream. She waded through knee-high water downstream from her
landing site, relying on the survival principle her father had taught
her, that tracking downstream should eventually lead to
civilization. The stream provided clean water and a natural path
through the dense rainforest vegetation.
During the trip, Koepcke could not sleep at night because of insect
bites, which became infected. After nine days, several spent floating
downstream, she found a boat moored near a shelter, where she found
the boat's motor and fuel tank. Relying again on her father's advice,
Koepcke poured gasoline on her wounds, which succeeded in removing
thirty-five maggots from one arm, then waited until rescuers
arrived. She later recounted her necessary efforts that day: "I
remember having seen my father when he cured a dog of worms in the
jungle with gasoline. I got some gasoline and poured it on myself. I
counted the worms when they started to slip out. There were 35 on my
arm. I remained there but I wanted to leave. I didn't want to take the
boat because I didn't want to steal it."
Hours later, the lumbermen who used the shelter arrived and tended to
her injuries and bug infestations. The next morning they took her via
a seven-hour canoe ride down river to a lumber station in the
Tournavista District. With the help of a local pilot, she was
airlifted to a hospital – and her waiting father – in Pucallpa.
I had nightmares for a long time, for years, and of course the grief
about my mother's death and that of the other people came back again
and again. The thought Why was I the only survivor? haunts me. It
— Juliane Koepcke, 2010
Koepcke's unlikely survival has been the subject of much speculation.
It is known that she was seatbelted into her seat and thus somewhat
shielded and cushioned, but it has also been theorized that the outer
pair of seats – those on each side of Koepcke, which came attached
to hers as part of a row of three – functioned like a parachute and
slowed her fall. The impact may also have been lessened by
thunderstorm updraft and the landing site's thick foliage.
Her experience was widely reported and is the subject of one feature
length fictional film and one documentary. The first was the
low-budget, heavily fictionalized I miracoli accadono ancora (1974) by
Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Maria Scotese; it was released in English
Miracles Still Happen
Miracles Still Happen (1975) and is sometimes called The Story of
Juliane Koepcke. Twenty-five years later, director Werner Herzog
revisited the story in his film Wings of Hope (1998). Herzog was
inspired to make the film as he narrowly avoided taking the same
flight while he was location scouting for Aguirre, Wrath of God. His
reservation was canceled for a last minute change in itinerary.
Koepcke moved to Germany, where she fully recovered from her injuries.
Like her parents, she studied biology at the University of Kiel,
graduating in 1980. She received a doctorate from Ludwig-Maximilian
University and returned to
Peru to conduct research in mammalogy,
specializing in bats. Koepcke published her thesis, Ecological
study of a bat colony in the tropical rain forest of Peru, in
1987. Now known as Juliane Diller, she serves as librarian at the
Bavarian State Zoological Collection in Munich. Her autobiography,
Als ich vom Himmel fiel (When I Fell From the Sky), was released on 10
March 2011 by Piper Verlag, for which she received the Corine
Literature Prize in 2011.
Koepcke, Juliane (2011). Als ich vom Himmel fiel (in German). Munich:
Piper Malik. ISBN 978-3-89029-389-9.
When I Fell From the Sky, Titletown Publishing, 2011,
List of sole survivors of aviation accidents or incidents
^ "The Top Wilderness Survival Stories". Outside Online. Retrieved 26
^ a b c d e "Survivor still haunted by 1971 air crash". CNN.com. 2
July 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
^ a b From an interview published in Vice, Sept. 2010: Littlewood, Tom
(January 2011). "After the Fall". Harper's. Harper's Foundation
(1,928): 20–23. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
^ "Juliane Koepcke: How I survived a plane crash". BBC News. 24 March
2012. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
^ a b "Survivor Didn't Want To Steal Boat". The News and Courier. 9
January 1972. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
^ a b Loup, Aldo (2013). "The incredible fall of Juliane Koepcke".
Naturapop.com. Natura Pop. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
^ "IMDb: The Story of
Juliane Koepcke (1975)". Internet Movie
Database. 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
^ Herzog, Werner (2001). Herzog on Herzog. Faber and Faber.
^ a b Francois Vuilleumier (2002). "Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke". Ornitologia
Neotropical. 13 (2): 215–218.
Juliane Koepcke (1987). Ökologische Studien an einer
Fledermaus-Artengemeinschaft im tropischen Regenwald von Peru.
OCLC 230848237. Retrieved 3 August 2011.
^ Diller, Juliane; Rygiert, Beate (2011). Als ich vom Himmel fiel: Wie
mir der Dschungel mein Leben zurückgab. Malik.
^ "Corine Internationaler Buchpreis". Corine.de. National Exchange
Association of Bavaria. 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
Plane Crashes Since 1970 with a Sole Survivor. airsafe.com
BBC interview with
Juliane Koepcke 2012, mp3 file
Juliane Koepcke in the
German National Library
German National Library catalogue
ISNI: 0000 0001 0963 4200