This popular YouTube video which is about surviving when jumping from a plane with the parachute failing says at 1:03:

You're looking for 3 things: Swamps, snow, trees. Your best chance of surviving is to land in one of those 3. Just stay away from water. Whatever you do, don't land in the water!

I was able to find instances of people having survived such falls when landing in snow and Nicholas Alkemade survived hitting trees before landing an snow. But has anyone survived actually landing in trees or at least first hitting trees and then landing on ground which wasn't covered in snow?

1 Answer 1


Juliane Koepcke survived a fall into the rainforest, which definitely did not have any snow.

Juliane Diller (born 10 October 1954 in Lima as Juliane Margaret Koepcke) is a German-Peruvian biologist. Born in Peru to German expatriates, she was the only survivor of 92 passengers and crew in the 24 December 1971 crash of LANSA Flight 508 in the Peruvian rainforest. When the airliner broke up in mid-air, she survived after plummeting about 3 km (~10,000 feet) while still strapped to her seat, before crashing through the rainforest canopy and coming to rest on the forest floor.

It appears that the details required to definitely explain why this happened are lost, that doesn't stop people from speculating.

Koepcke's unlikely survival has been the subject of much speculation. It is known that she was seatbelted into her seat and thus somewhat shielded and cushioned, but it has also been theorized that the outer pair of seats – those on each side of Koepcke, which came attached to hers as part of a row of three – functioned like a parachute and slowed her fall. The impact may also have been lessened by thunderstorm updraft and the landing site's thick foliage.

The Wikipedia article links to sources that match the Wikipedia story. Although some of these sources are well known quality sources, others appear to just be blogs. Some of the details, particularly those speculating about why she survived, are suspect.

In 2006, skydiver Michael Holmes survived a fall after his parachute didn't fully open. He credits his survival to landing in a dense blackberry bush. The whole thing was caught on his helmet camera, and his friend's helmet camera. The parachute did not open fully, and was able to slow his fall.

Both of these stories are about someone who survived a fall from a great height with either something to slow their fall, and/or something to break their fall at the end.

  • Regarding the first one: She wasn't cushioned by trees but by her seat. Regarding the second one: They said he fell with 70 mph (he was slowed quite a bit by his failed parachute) which is 31.29 m/s. Without any parachute, humans reach a terminal velocity of about 53 m/s. This means he only had to bear 34.85% of the energy he would've had to if he fell with terminal velocity.
    – UTF-8
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 17:15
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    @UTF-8 Regarding the first one, nobody really knows. She was passed out at the time. We don't have to pick one explanation. She could have survived by a combination of seats cushions, and rain forest canopy. Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 18:51
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    Even without any slowing due to drag on the seats I would think that would provide a near-ideal condition for survival. The seats have some pretty tough framework to absorb the blows as the seats smash through the branches. So long as you don't hit something too heavy and aren't impaled you're going to slow as you smash your way through branches while taking little injury in the process. In the ideal case you have from the canopy to the floor to shed your velocity--and that's something you can walk away from. Of course in practice it's not going to be nice and even slowing. Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 5:14

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