Years later, she would say: “People always want to sit next to me on the plane.”

By Cailey Rizzo
December 28, 2016
Vesna Vulovic

A flight attendant who fell 33,000 feet out of an exploding plane in 1972 died last week in her apartment in Belgrade.

Vesna Vulović was 66. Her cause of death was not immediately known.

In January 1972, she was working a Yugoslav Airlines flight when an onboard bomb detonated while the plane was flying over Czechoslovakia. All other 27 people onboard the aircraft died.

The then-22-year-old was at the rear of the plane when the bomb—likely planted by Croatian terrorists—exploded. She was pinned to the back of the plane by a food cart and fell to earth in the tail of the aircraft. The tail’s fall was broken by trees and landed in snow.

She did not escape the incident unharmed: She was found in snowy woods and rescued, although later she fell into a coma for 10 days. Her skull, ribs, legs and pelvis were broken. She was paralyzed from the waist down, but eventually recovered and returned to work for the airline in a desk job.

The Serbian flight attendant was awarded a Guinness World Record in 1985 for “the highest fall survived without a parachute.” Her experiences were the basis for a “Mythbusters” episode.

In 1990, Vulović was fired from Yugoslav Airlines for her political activity against then-Serbian President Slobodan Milošević.

Vulović had no memory of the crash. When speaking to the New York Times in 2008, she said “Nobody ever expected me to live this long.” She continued to fly as a passenger and told the paper, “People always want to sit next to me on the plane.”