Juliane Koepcke was 17 years old when the plane she and her mother were in was hit by lightning and fell 10,000 feet into the Amazon rainforest. Juliane miraculously survived the crash and several days in the jungle on her own.

Christmas Eve plane crash of 1971

Juliane’s parents, Maria and Hans-Wilhelm Koepcke, were both zoologists who established the Panguana Ecological Research Station. Juliane’s dad was manning the station in 1971 so for their family to all be together on Christmas day, then 17-year-old Juliane and her mother boarded LANSA airline for a flight from Lima, Peru to Pucallpa in the Amazonian rain-forest on December 24, 1971.

Apparently, LANSA airline already had a bad reputation as the company already lost two of its aircraft in previous crashes, but Juliane and her mother took a gamble since they desperately wanted to be with his father on Christmas. The first 25 minutes of flight was fine…until the plane flew into heavy clouds. Juliane recalled the plane shaking hard until she saw a bright flash of light and the plane took a nose dive.

Juliane was in and out of consciousness after the plane broke in midair. When she finally regained consciousness she had a broken collarbone, a swollen right eye, and large gashes on her arms and legs, but otherwise, she miraculously survived the plane crash. Everyone aboard Flight 508 died.

Fortunately for Juliane, she had spent years on the research station with her parents and her dad taught her how to survive in the rainforest. Armed with a bag of candy she found in the crash site, Juliane stayed in the creek and walked in the water because she knew it was safer.

On her 10th day alone in the jungle, Juliane was totally exhausted and hungry when she saw a large boat and then a small path that led to a hut with a palm roof. Several men found her the next day who treated her wounds, gave her food to eat, and brought her back to civilization.

Juliane was reunited with her father, but it took many days before they found her mother’s dead body. She later learned that her mother survived the crash and died several days later.