Juliane Koepcke had no idea what was in store for her when boarded LANSA Flight 508 on Christmas Eve in 1971. The 17-year-old was traveling with her mother from Lima, Peru to the eastern city of Pucallpa to visit her father, who was working in the Amazonian Rainforest.
Juliane Koepcke was born in Lima on Oct. 10, 1954. Both of her parents were German zoologists who moved to Peru to study wildlife. She had received her high school diploma the day before the flight and planned to study zoology like her parents.
The flight was meant to be an hour long. Seated in 19F, it was a smooth ride until the clouds grew darker and turbulence got worse.
Suddenly, the plane was in the midst of a massive thunderstorm. At this point, the plane was in a swirl of pitch black clouds and flashes of lightning glistened through the windows. When a lightning bolt struck the motor, the plane broke into pieces.
Then everything sped up. “What really happened is something you can only try to reconstruct in your mind,” said Koepcke. There were the noises of people’s screams and the motor until all she could hear was the wind in her ears.
Still strapped to her seat, Koepcke had only realized she was free-falling for a few moments before she lost consciousness.
She fell 10,000 feet down into the middle of the Peruvian rainforest.
Read more: All That’s Interesting