'Everyone is dead. I am sitting here. In a jungle'


Annette Herfkens was the lone survivor of a 1992 plane crash in Vietnam that killed 30 other people, including her fiancé Willem “Pasje” van de Pas. She details what is was like to be alone in the jungle waiting for help.

Video above: What happens when you’re the lone survivor of a tragic incident? Insight finds out what causes survivor's guilt and if it’s universal. Full ep. here.

Below is an extract from Annette Herfkens book, Turbulence: A True Story of Survival.

Everyone is dead. I am sitting here. In a jungle. This is where I am. Alone. In the jungle. I move my eyes. I see the leaves, the broken plane parts, the bodies. I listen to my breath. It sounds as labored as it feels; my chest hurts. So much! But I am breathing. Loud and clear!

Annette Herfkens meeting one of her rescuers when she returned to Vietnam.

Again I observe: the sounds, the jungle, the leaves, the plane, the bodies. And me, lying on a bed of twigs. Sharp little twigs. They hurt. I move a bit. It hurts. My hips hurt. Everything hurts. Help me, dear Lord. Help me!

My forehead feels as if somebody is pounding on it with a hammer. I cannot really move my legs. They seem both cramped and lifeless. I stay on my back and I look at my arms. They are covered with blood. There are two gaping wounds near my right elbow. They feel tender. When I graze my fingers over them, I nearly scream.

I go outside myself again. I focus on the leaves. On the broken plane parts. On the bodies. The Vietnamese girl died with her fist clenched. The man next to me looks both peacefully asleep and dead. Like Pasje, with his sweet smile ... Don't think of Pasje.
Annette Herfkens
Annette Herfkens pictured with her then fiancé Willem “Pasje” van de Pas.
Don't think of Pasje. I look back at the man. He is not scary, just dead. I know what the dead look like. I have seen corpses. I think of the ones I have seen. Mr. Bongaerts. My grandmother. Manuel in Chile. You only have to see one to know that dead is dead. And that they are not scary, that there is nothing to fear. I check the man's watch. Ironic how that keeps going. Ten o'clock.
I look at the sky through the trees. There are clouds but they don't seem to hold  rain. Isn't it rainy season? I wish I had read up on my travels! I have no idea where I am. I just know that the jungles are endless. And I don't see any planes. Where is the next plane? The next plane will surely see us? We seem high up in the mountain. Who knows how far from where? I have not even looked at the map! I have no idea what direction we were flying. Pasje is my compass.  Don't think of Pasje!
Source Insight

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