I was the sole survivor of a plane crash — and spent 8 days in the jungle




Former Wall Street trader Annette Herfkens, 55, a Dutch native now living on New York’s Upper East Side, was the sole survivor of a horrifying 1992 plane crash in Vietnam. At the time, she was 31, living in Madrid, and engaged to her boyfriend of 13 years — who died in the accident, along with the 22 other passengers and six crew members. Herfkens’ extraordinary memoir, “Turbulence,” is out Tuesday. She tells The Post’s Jane Ridley her inspiring story of physical and psychological endurance. My head is light. The plants around me are radiant. I do not feel the pain any longer. I am both out of my body and close to my body. I have left, but I am present. Darkness is mixed with brightness, the day with the night. I feel as protected as I possibly can be. I have surrendered myself completely. To the trees, the leaves, the crickets, the ants, the centipedes, life. Or is it to death I have surrendered? I am within the moment. A timeless moment of ecstatic freedom. A moment that gives me peace, unity and joy. That was my near-death experience on my penultimate day in the Vietnamese jungle — eight days after the plane I was on crashed into a remote mountain ridge. Although seriously injured, I was the only survivor. The other 29 passengers and crew, including my 36-year-old fiancé, Willem van der Pas, whom I called Pasje, all perished. It was Saturday, Nov. 14, 1992, when Pasje and I boarded Vietnamese Airlines Flight VN474 from Ho Chi Minh City for a romantic five-day vacation in Nha Trang, a resort on the South China Sea. The trip was a surprise for me — visiting from Madrid, where I was temporarily based with Santander Bank — and to provide much-needed respite for Pasje, who had moved to Vietnam six months earlier to set up two banking branches for his employer, ING. We had been together for 13 years after meeting at Leiden University in our native Netherlands as students. We knew we were destined to get married from the fourth year of college. After school, we lived for a while in Amsterdam; later, because of our work as bankers, we lived together or apart in various financial capitals in South America and Europe. When I arrived in Vietnam, it had been eight weeks since I’d seen Pasje. We were aching to be together. As usual, he met me at the airport, then took me on a whirlwind tour of the city before an intimate dinner at one of his favorite restaurants. We were blissfully happy. Neither of us could wait for the day when we could tie the knot and hopefully live somewhere like New York City and start a family. I was excited for the surprise getaway. But I felt so claustrophobic, I shuddered as we boarded the cramped Vietnam Airlines plane. “Can’t we take a car instead?” I asked Pasje. “The jungle is very dense, and the road is horrible,” he replied. “It would take days. By the time we get there, we would have to leave again.” I sat down nervously. Fifty excruciating minutes later, we experienced a tremendous drop, and Pasje looked at me with fear. “Of course, a sh - - tty little toy plane drops like this!” I said, reaching for his hand. “It’s just an air pocket — don’t worry.” But he was right to worry. We dropped again. Someone screamed. It went pitch-black. Seconds later, we made impact. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but I guess I tumbled around in the cabin like a lonely piece of laundry in a clothes dryer, hitting my head and limbs against the ceiling and lockers. I may have been the only one not wearing a seat belt. At some point I must have landed and slipped under a seat, legs first, and gotten stuck. This kept me in place for the second, bigger impact, which caused the plane to break up. I awoke after four, maybe five hours. I saw Pasje across the aisle. He was lying in his seat, which had somehow flipped backward, and had a smile on his lips. A sweet little smile. But he was dead, his ribs crushed into his lungs by his seat belt. Shock must have set in, because I don’t remember crawling out of the plane. Soon, I was sitting outside of the cabin, on a mountain slope, under the trees in dense undergrowth. Everything hurt and I couldn’t move. My wraparound skirt had been torn off and I could see four inches of bluish bone sticking out through layers of flesh on my shin. I didn’t know it at the time, but my hips were fractured, I had a collapsed lung, and my jaw was hanging loose. As the days went on, gangrene set into my toes. There was a weird, unreal reality. Everything was green. The more I listened to the jungle sounds, the louder they became. I could see dead bodies strewn below me and, although I didn’t see anyone, I could hear faint moans from people still inside the plane. Beside me was a Vietnamese man, alive but badly hurt. “Don’t worry, they will come for us,” he said. To protect my modesty, he somehow managed to open his little square suitcase and give me a pair of trousers, which were part of a suit. I felt comforted by his words and his presence but, after a short conversation, we both retreated into our injuries. A few hours later, I saw the man was becoming weaker. Before long, he had difficulty breathing. The life went out of him. He was gone. There were no longer any sounds from the plane. I was completely alone. After that, I tried to move. Shifting even an inch was agony. But I tried not to dwell on my suffering and focused on what I could achieve, rather than what I could not. Over the following days, even though I was grieving for Pasje, I concentrated on my survival. What alternative did I have? I painfully pulled myself around a small section of the wreckage, dragging my body by my elbows. I stayed outside, because I couldn’t bear to see the corpses inside the plane. Once, I’d looked over at the man I’d been speaking to and a maggot crawled out of his eye. Those were terrifying images I didn’t want to see. My main goal was drinking water to stay hydrated, something I did by collecting rainwater in small sponges. I fashioned the sponges from insulation I found near the shattered wing of the plane. Standing up to retrieve the insulation was torture, and putting one foot in front of the other impossible. I wrung the moisture from the sponges into my mouth. In a vain attempt to stay dry, I wore a blue plastic poncho I’d found in someone’s pack. But I didn’t take anything from anyone else. It didn’t seem appropriate. As for emotions, I realized I couldn’t cry — because crying makes you weak. I knew that if I started, I would give up. Every time I thought of Pasje, I forced myself to stop. I would look at my engagement ring, but then I wouldn’t allow myself to think any further. It wouldn’t do any good. Instead I stayed in the now. I listened to my heart and instinct, and not to my mind, because the mind makes up stories that can frighten you. For example, I could have thought: “What if there are no rescue workers?,” or “What if that’s a tiger or that’s a snake?” But I knew I would deal with the snake or the tiger when they were in front of me. And if there was no rescue, I’d cross that bridge then. Another saving grace was the sheer beauty of the mountain. I would look at the varying shades of green on the leaves. How the sun would reflect in a raindrop. Meditating on nature became my distraction. I wouldn’t allow myself to think there was a chance I was going to die. My profession as a bond trader helped too. I divided everything into reasonable steps. Numberwise, I was instinctive. I gave myself a week to stay in this one spot. If nobody rescued me by Sunday, then I would need to go into the jungle in search of food. But, in reality, I was physically incapable of doing that. All I could do was shuffle on my elbows, dragging my useless hips. I gave myself a week to stay in this one spot. If nobody rescued me by Sunday, then I would need to go into the jungle in search of food. - Annette Herfkens Gradually, I retreated into the tranquility of the place. The jungle became more beautiful by the day. It was the perfect setting for my near-death experience on the seventh day, when I thought about my happy childhood and felt the love of my friends and family encircle me. I brought up treasured memories about my mother, father and siblings, who had always been so supportive of me in my life and career. But then, suddenly, I heard the sound of cracking wood. On the other side of the ravine was a man in an orange hood. I wondered whether he was real or a phantom. Some version of St. Peter? I waved frantically. “Hello? Can you help me?” He just stared at me and stayed motionless. Then he was gone. The orange man, a local policeman, turned out to be my savior. The authorities were looking for me. And although he first thought I was a ghost — he’d never seen a white woman before — he raised the alarm. The following day I was rescued by a team of Vietnamese workers. They showed me a passenger list from the flight and I pointed out my name. They had body bags with them, thinking that nobody could possibly have lived. They moved me onto a canvas and carried my broken body down the mountain. At first I was terrified to be leaving my ridge, the spot that had kept me safe in the aftermath of the accident. I didn’t want to leave Pasje. My first true love. It sent me into a panic being taken away from him. But, after a while, I rallied. Gratitude swept over me as the men took off their shoes so they could step more lightly on the rocks and not aggravate my injuries. Next, I was airlifted to Ho Chi Minh City before being transferred to a hospital in Singapore. I was surrounded by family and friends who had flown in from Holland and other parts of the world. They’d naturally feared I was dead when they heard about the crash. My incredible survival story made headlines across the world. After surgeries on my jaw, and a series of skin grafts and treatments for gangrene, I started to heal. Psychologically, however, it was hard. Pasje and I had been together for 13 years, so it felt like I was widowed. I attended his funeral on Dec. 10, 1992, in Breda, Holland. Brought into the church on a stretcher, I felt surreal — like a bride taken down the aisle to meet her groom in his coffin. I first walked again on New Year’s Eve, when I was convalescing at my parents’ home. Taking those first few steps was painful but I was so relieved I had enough strength to stand upright and move on two legs, instead of elbows. People might think it strange, but I returned to my job in Madrid in February. I loved my work and wanted to at least try to piece my life back together. A few years later, I married my Santander co-worker Jaime in secret — office relationships were frowned upon in those days in finance — and settled in New York in 1996. We had two beautiful children, Joosje, now 19, and her brother, 17-year-old Max. But our lives since the crash have not been smooth. In 2001, at the age of 2, Max was diagnosed with autism. As any special-needs parent knows, it’s easy to go into denial. It’s tempting to think: “What if he’s never able to go to a proper school?” or “Will he never get a job?” But, just as I accepted my circumstances in the jungle, I focused on the here and now — and not what should be. Max is now doing well at the Child School on Roosevelt Island. Sadly, my marriage fell apart, and Jaime and I were divorced two years ago. But I truly believe that every loss you take in life makes you a bit wiser, and every year, more accepting. To this day, the cause of my plane crash is unknown. Annette Herfkens with Mr. Cao, the first person to spot her after the crashProvided by publisher One of the biggest shocks to come out of the whole affair was my discovery 10 years ago that there had been two air crashes in the jungle that November in 1992. While researching my book, I had gone back to Vietnam to retrace my steps, revisit the mountain, and meet my rescuers, including the orange man. A young girl approached me as I left for Ho Chi Minh City. “My father went to rescue you and never came back!” she sobbed, falling into my arms. It turned out, a helicopter had been dispatched to get me off the mountain, but tragedy had struck when that aircraft also crashed. Eight people onboard were killed, including the girl’s father, a doctor. I struggled up the mountain, where I made my peace with Pasje and his memory. I left a small seal ornament because that was my nickname for him. It wasn’t closure that I found back in that place, but an opening to my own future.

‘Real-life Tarzan’ lived in isolated Vietnam jungle for 40 years

Dressed in tree bark and leaves while munching on a rat caught in a complicated jungle trap, this guy looks a little different than Alexander Skarsgård, the Swedish actor who stole hearts in the new Tarzan movie.

But this “real-life Tarzan” is credited with skills that are “superhuman.”

Building tree houses, fashioning tools out of discarded bombs and catching a bat quicker than you can Google, Ho Van Lang, 44, spent 40 years living like a “slave” in isolation in the jungle.

And now, Lang has been forced to re-enter civilization despite his love affair with the wilderness.

Lang spent much of his life in the deepest jungles of Vietnam, in the Tay Tra district of Quang Ngai province, after his father, Ho Van Thanh, 85, fled civilization during the Vietnam War in 1972.

Lang’s father, an army veteran, decided to flee with his two sons after a US bomb killed his wife and two of their children.

They built wood houses and sourced water from rivers, using a variety of jungle delicacies for dinner, including fruit, honey and a host of meats like monkey, snake, lizard and frog.

Along with his brother, Lang spent most of his life eating and living off the jungle until 2013, when locals found the family, alerted authorities and forced them to re-enter civilization.

According to Alvaro Cerezo, who tracked Lang and his family down in November 2015, Lang’s father suffers from a “profound phobia of returning [to civilization] as he did not believe that the Vietnam War was over.”

“They always escaped when they saw people from a distance.”

In a new documentary that follows Lang throughout his reintroduction into modern society and which tracks his past as a hunter and gatherer, Cerezo convinced Lang to return to the jungle for the first time since his capture and spend a few days teaching him jungle survival techniques.

The footage follows the full-day trek to Lang’s former jungle sanctuary while revealing the techniques he used to stay alive for so long.

His trapping skills are particularly impressive, capturing and eating both a rat and a bat during Lang’s five-day homecoming. His favorite part of the rat? Its head.

Lang’s isolation from the world has made it especially difficult to adapt to modern society; he cannot understand Vietnamese, has no concept of time other than from the sun, and struggles to understand the concept of electricity.

Until he was found, Lang never knew of the existence of the female sex, as his father never told him.

“More surprising still is that today, despite being able to distinguish between men and women, he still doesn’t know the essential difference between them,” Cerezo said.

“I can confirm that Lang has never had the minimum sexual desire and his reproductive instinct has never shown its head in any of its many facets.”

Credited as a “baby in a man’s body,” Lang’s brother, Tri, said, “Lang doesn’t understand many basic social concepts.”

“Lang has spent his whole life in the jungle. So his brain is just like a baby,” his brother said.

“If I asked Lang to beat someone, he would do it severely. He doesn’t know the difference between good and bad. Lang is just a child. He doesn’t know anything. Most people know what is good or bad in life, but my brother doesn’t.”

“If I asked Lang to stab someone with a knife, he would do it without thinking and that person could die.”

Yet Cerezo says Lang, despite his intellectual inability, is one of the most peaceful people he’s met.

“Lang was probably the most adorable human I have ever met in my life, he just doesn’t know what is good or bad.”

But despite fears Lang could “kill anyone” on request, Cerezo said Lang is “happily adapting to his new life.”

He thinks the modern world is “noisy,” but he was particularly impressed by his first ride in a car (he was driven to a hospital when he was first discovered) and he loves seeing “animals being friendly with people.”

“In the jungle animals always ran away from me,” he said.

Cerezo says Lang is living a productive life and enjoys it “mainly for the freedom he now enjoys. He lived almost like a slave of his dad during his life in the jungle.”

“The first year was the most difficult for Lang because of health problems from a virus and bacteria new to his system.”

Lang’s father, though, is sadly not doing so well. Believing the Vietnam War is still going on, he sits alone in a squatting position in a corner of his room.

“His major obsession is to return to the jungle one day,” said Cerezo.

Mom who drank pee to survive was hallucinating and delirious



The mom who drank her own urine to survive a dangerous 30-mile hike in Arizona said she was delirious and hallucinating before finally finding safe shelter.

Karen Klein, 46, went searching for help when a car carrying her husband and son broke down in the snow on the north end of the Grand Canyon on Thursday.

After more than a day of walking in cellphone-dead zones, Klein finally got to a cabin used to house park rangers but closed for the season.

“I broke a window and crawled into the house,” she told NBC News from her hospital bed in Utah. “And around 2:30, I heard the knocking at the door, I heard people outside and I saw all the flashlights.

“Because I was like hallucinating and delirious, like, my first thought was like, I yelled out: ‘I’m so sorry officer that I broke your window… don’t arrest me for breaking the window,’ ” she continued. “They were just like, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ ”

She had left her 10-year-old son Isaac and husband Eric Klein, 47, behind to find help on Thursday afternoon.

When she hadn’t returned by Friday, they trekked out on their own and found a spot where cell-phone service worked and called for help.

The 5-foot-4, 104-pound Karen Klein pulled a muscle near her hip before being rescued on Saturday.

And toward the end of her journey. Klein could barely move in 10-steps intervals — often having to physically lift her legs one in front of the other.

“I was taking my pants leg and lifting it to move my leg,” she said.

The Pennsylvania woman said she kept telling herself to keep moving and stay alive for the sake of loved ones.

“I can’t leave my son without a mom,” Klein recalled telling herself. “I can’t leave my husband without a wife. I’m not letting my parents bury me.”

Klein suffered frostbite from her terrifying ordeal and will probably lose a toe or two.

“In the grand scheme of things, I keep thinking `You know what? It’s a few toes. Don’t worry about it,’ ” said Klein, who teaches biology at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem.

Stranded 85-year-old woman survives on Rice Krispies Treats

Survival was a snap — and a crackle and a pop — for this granny.

An 85-year-old woman stranded in her snowbound car for five days lived through the ordeal by rationing her supply of Rice Krispies Treats.

Great-grandma Ruby Stein and her cat Nikki were on their way back home after visiting her granddaughter in Gypsum, Colo., but a wrong turn took her 20 miles into the mountains, Tucson News Now reported.

Her Nissan Sentra got stuck at the end of a muddy dirt road, where its battery drained after she left the flashing lights on to try to attract attention. Her cellphone had no signal in the remote spot.

“Whatever will be, will be. It’s nothing I can do about it,” Stein said she thought as she sat for days with a large mat to keep her legs warm.

Despite the scary predicament, Stein remained composed.

“I keep myself very calm, which surprised me. Of course, if you raise five kids, you know,” she said.

She fashioned a makeshift blanket from some clothes and melted snow from the dashboard to drink.

For sustenance, she consumed Rice Krispies Treats and sweet rolls — making sure to eat only two bites a day.

She wondered if she would have to raid Nikki’s supply of cat food to avoid starving to death.

“I wondered what that would really taste like,” Stein said of the feline fare.

After five long days, Stein saw two hikers approaching her.

“We stopped and peeked in since the car door was open and asked, ‘Is everybody OK? Is anybody in there?’” hiker Dan Higbee said.

“I was never so glad to see anybody in my life,” Stein said. “Because I’ve always been a strong woman, a strong person. I believe whatever happens happens for a reason.”

Missing hiker found after surviving 47 days in the Himalayas

A Taiwanese hiker with maggots already feasting on his flesh has been found, after missing for seven weeks in the Himalayan Mountains.
Liang Sheng-yueh, 20 — who was forced to resort to a salt and snow diet to survive — was found Wednesday afternoon alongside his hiking partner, Liu Chen Chun, who died three days before help arrived, CNN reported.
The men were found in a ravine near the Narchet River in the sprawling Nepalese mountain range that’s home to Mount Everest.
The pair set off for a hike without a guide or porter March 9 but eventually lost their bearings when a snowstorm hit, and fell off a cliff into a ravine, where they found shelter in a small cave, CNN said.
When their families didn’t hear from them, they requested a formal search, which went on fruitlessly for weeks.
The two survived the first 10 days with packed food they were carrying, but had to turn to salt and snow to endure the remaining 37 days.
Liang lost 66 pounds during the ordeal and was presumed dead by Nepalese officials.
Despite his malnutrition, Liang was “very happy” to see the rescuers and greeted them by saying “Namaste,” CNN reported, citing one of the rescuers, Madhav Basnet.
Liang did not have any serious injuries, but was unstable psychologically and had maggots crawling between his toes and lice in his hair, according to CNN.
He’s recovering in a hospital in Kathmandu, where he slurped down six bowls of soup on his first night, according to Basnet.
“He kept thanking me,” Basnet said. “He is gaining energy very fast.”

Cocky skier survives 60-foot drop into a crevasse

A skier in Switzerland named Jamie Mullner tumbled 60 feet into a crevasse, despite being warned about the deep hole. Fortunately for him, his friends witnessed the fall, and the unscathed 26-year-old was able to radio for help from underground. “I was pretty sure I was going to die or get horrifically injured,” Mullner said. “It only takes a few seconds to get a little carried away and often you don’t get a second chance like I did.”

Man survives for days alone in the desert on beer and his own urine


A relieved man survived in the baking-hot desert for two days with little supplies and was kept alive by beer and drinking his own urine.Mick Ohman, 55, was left stranded in the wilderness in Phoenix, Arizona, after his car broke down on a rocky road on July 27.The distressed man, who had been driving home after a day trip, only had two beers, a small bottle of water, a stale sandwich and some crackers to keep him going.But on the second day, Ohman’s supplies had run out, and he was left to drink his own urine before eventually finding a small stream.Speaking with ABC News, he said: “I’ve really never felt that thirsty before. When I tried to swallow I couldn’t. My throat stuck together.“I had to urinate and I did… and I was surprised it wasn’t as obnoxious as I thought it would be.“The temperature was what got me, as warm as it was.”The food Ohman had with him when he was stranded.Courtesy of Mick OhmanAnd as the third day approached, the starving Phoenix-native recorded a heart-breaking goodbye to his family using his smartphone in which he proclaimed “I’m terrified.”Thankfully, after 48 hours in the sweltering heat with almost no food, Ohman was rescued by a dirt bike rider Troy Haverland.The 55-year-old spoke of his relief at seeing another human for the first time in nearly three days.He said: “All of a sudden, up over the horizon, Troy appeared. I’m screaming in his ear the whole way, ‘You know, today you can say you saved a life.'”Ohman, who has now returned to his Phoenix home, was taken to hospital and was given the all-clear by doctors.

Woman who survived a month in woods ‘was on meth


The former Hooters waitress who survived a month alone in the woods may have gotten lost because she was high on meth, police now say.
Student Lisa Theris was found wandering by a US highway caked in mud and covered in scratches after spending nearly four weeks alone in the forest.
Now the Mail Online reports how police think she may have gotten lost because she was high on drugs.
Cops suspect she may have been suffering from hallucinations brought on by taking meth.
And bizarrely, the two men she allegedly took drugs with were so sure the 25-year-old was dead, they started accusing each other of her murder.
Manly Davis, 31, and Randy Oswald, 36 — who were arrested after allegedly breaking into a hunting lodge in Midway — are understood to have been quizzed over her disappearance.
It was earlier alleged that Theris was with the men but did not want to be part of the robbery and ran into the forest to escape.
Reports also claim she emerged just two days after criminal charges against her were dropped when she was presumed dead, according to the Daily Mail.
Pictures show her body covered in bug bites after the legally blind radiology student struggled through the forest completely naked.
Snaps show how her skin was left cracked from dehydration after she drank muddy water and squeezed the moisture from her hair to stay alive.
But it has since been revealed how she started taking drugs in the months before her disappearance.
Questions are now being asked about her miraculous survival.
Davis is said to have told police she leaped out of their truck as they attempted to ram the metal entry gates and fled.
Oswald is reported to have told them Davis had shot the girl in the head, placed her body in a garbage bag and tossed it into a creek.
Bullock County Sheriff Raymond Rodgers told DailyMail.com: “They were so geeked out that they started blaming each other for a murder that didn’t happen.
“They were as relieved as we were when she walked out of those woods. They were thinking they killed her.”
He added: “We are thinking they were all pretty much on drugs.
“‘Me personally, I think she was on meth, she was hallucinating and she just got lost in the woods.”
Theris told NBC12: “I just did what I could. I just knew that when I was thirsty, I had to drink, no matter if the water was dirty or what.
“I had to get as much of it as possible. Sometimes it would make me very sick.”
She added: “I thank God for the berries. There were always pretty much berries.”
Theris hobbled through the vast wilderness barefoot for 25 days with the help of a staff she made from the roots of a tree as she searched for signs of civilization.
She said: “You can’t imagine how large of an area it was. I couldn’t believe it.
“I kept thinking I would find a person or a house, even if it was empty, but there was nothing.
“Nothing but nature. That’s it.”
Eventually the former Hooters waitress said she stumbled upon a main road, where she was rescued by a “wonderful” passing motorist from Florida, who gave her clothes and waited with her until help arrived.
Now recovering after having reportedly lost 40 pounds during her ordeal, Theris said: “I’m just so happy to be home and recuperating.
“I just thank everybody for the prayers and support. It means a lot.
“Just being out of those woods is just the most amazing thing.”
Theris is now limited in what she can tell reporters as there is an ongoing police investigation, NBC reports.


I was the sole survivor of a plane crash — and spent 8 days in the jungle

Former Wall Street trader Annette Herfkens, 55, a Dutch native now living on New York’s Upper East Side, was the sole survivor of a horrifyi...