On December 24, 1971, a scheduled domestic passenger plane, LANSA Flight 508 or registered as the OB-R-94, crashed in a thunderstorm while en route from Lima to Pucallpa, Peru. This tragic accident is considered the worst lightning strike disaster in history.
The terrible air crash claimed 91 lives including of all 6 crew members and 85 of its 86 passengers on board. The sole survivor was a 17-year-old high school student named Juliane Koepcke, who fell 10,000 feet (3.2 kilometres) to the ground still strapped to her chair and lived miraculously. She was then able to walk through the jungle for 10 days until being rescued by local lumbermen.
Juliane Koepcke was studying in Lima, intending to become a zoologist. That day she was travelling with her mother Maria Koepcke from Lima back to their home at Panguana. Unfortunately, the accident took everyone’s life on board including her mother’s. Juliane said of the crash:
“I heard the incredibly loud motor and people screaming and then the plane fell extremely steeply. And then it was calm-incredibly calm compared with the noise before that. I could only hear the wind in my ears. I was still attached to my seat. My mother and the man sitting by the aisle had both been propelled out of their seats. I was free-falling, that’s what I registered for sure. I was in a tailspin. I saw the forest beneath me-like ‘green cauliflower, like broccoli,’ is how I described it later on. Then I lost consciousness and regained it way later, the next day.”
However, Flight 508 was LANSA’s last aircraft, the company lost its operating permit after a few weeks of this tragic incident.
Later in 2010, Juliane Koepcke expressed her regrets saying:
“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 always will.”
In 1998, a documentary TV film named Wings of Hope, directed by Werner Herzog was released, describing the event. You could find this on YouTube(here).