Latin America & Caribbean

Miraculous plane crash survivors

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A Colombian mother and her baby survived this crash in the jungle

A young mother and her baby have been found alive five days after their plane crashed in the jungle of western Colombia.

The survival of Maria Nelly Murillo and her one-year-old son has been described as "a miracle". The following is a selection of some of the most miraculous plane crash survival stories.

Juliane Koepcke - 1971

Image caption Juliane Koepcke returned to the crash site in 2000

On Christmas Eve 1971, lightning struck Lansa Flight 508 over Peru, causing it to explode. Juliane Koepcke was the only survivor of the 92 people on board after falling two miles strapped in to her seat. Sat in the next seat, her mother's final words were "that is the end, it's all over".

Completely alone in the rainforest, the 17-year-old was covered in deep gashes, and had a broken collarbone and ruptured knee ligaments. However, she had been taught survival skills by her father whilst being raised at a remote jungle research station.

After walking for 10 days, fighting mosquitoes and hunger, she began to float down a large river where she was saved by a passing boat.

Once on board she realised a wound on her arm had become infested with maggots. Remembering her father's advice she poured petrol on it and picked more than 30 maggots out.

In 2000, the documentary maker Werner Herzog released a film about her story, entitled Wings of Hope. Herzog was inspired to make the film after a last-minute change caused him to miss Koepcke's doomed flight.

Vesna Vulovic - 1972

On 26 January 1972, a suspected terrorist bomb placed on board JAT Yugoslav Airlines Flight 357 detonated over Czechoslovakia, blowing the plane apart in mid-air.

Of the 28 people on board only Vesna Vulovic, a 22-year-old Serbian flight attendant, survived. Trapped by a food cart in the tail of the DC-9 aircraft, she was left in a coma with injuries including a fractured skull, three broken vertebrae and two broken legs.

She is the Guinness World Record holder for the highest fall without a parachute (33,333 feet) and despite this dubious achievement she still flies.

"To this day I enjoy travelling and have no fear of flying," she said years after the crash.

Andes flight disaster - 1972

Image copyright AP
Image caption The two Chilean men who trekked for 10 days across the Andes to save their fellow passengers.

This crash entered popular culture as one of the most famous stories of human survival. On 13 October 1972, a Uruguayan plane carrying 45 passengers crashed in the middle of the Andes mountain range.

More than a quarter of those on board died in the initial crash. Rescuers gave up after 10 days of searching, assuming that no-one could have survived.

Stranded in the mountains, with no food, the survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism - eating the flesh of those who had died. Another eight were killed when an avalanche hit their shelter amongst the wreckage.

Realising they would die on the mountain, two Chilean passengers, Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa, set out to find help. They trekked for 10 days before reaching Chile. After they had alerted the authorities, the 14 remaining survivors were rescued from the crash site - 72 days after the plane went down.

Bahia Bakari - 2009

Image copyright AFP / getty images
Image caption Bahia Bakari survived for more than nine hours in the Indian Ocean, despite being barely able to swim

On 30 June 2009, a Yemenia Airways flight en route to the Comoros islands nosedived out of the sky and crashed into the Indian Ocean.

Bahia Bakari was the only one of 153 people on board to survive. Just 12-years-old, barely able to swim and with no life vest she clung to a piece of wreckage for hours until found by rescuers. She was flown to hospital in France to be treated for burns and broken bones.

After being picked up she had to be convinced that there had in fact been a plane crash. Still in a state of shock, she believed that she had fallen from the plane after pressing her forehead too hard against its windows.

Bahia was dubbed "the miracle girl" by the world's media. In 2010 she released her own book entitled "I'm Bahia, the miracle girl".

Ruben van Assouw - 2010

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruben's family say the quick actions of Libyan doctors saved his life

Nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw was the only survivor after an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 crashed just short of the runway of Libya's Tripoli airport. His father Patrick, mother Trudy and brother Enzo were among the 103 people who died.

Pulled unconscious from the wreckage, Reuben underwent surgery for fractured legs and has made a good recovery. He now lives with his aunt and uncle in the Netherlands. A planned return to Libya was reportedly cancelled because of the fighting that followed the country's revolution.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A year on from the crash, Reuben van Assouw walks with his cousins

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