Sole Dutch survivor of Vietnam plane crash returns to site after 22 yrs
During her trip to Vietnam to launch her autobiography, which recounts how she struggled for existence following a Vietnam Airlines crash in 1992 in which she was the sole survivor, a Dutch woman traveled back tothe crash site in the central province of Khanh Hoa for emotional reunions with her rescuers.
Annette Herfkens, the only survivor in the crash of the Vietnam Airlines flight 474 (VN-474) 22 years ago in O Kha Valley in the province’s Khanh Son District, arrived at the crash site earlier this week along with her daughter and the wives of the two planes’ perished pilots.
On November 14, 1992, VN-474, carrying six crewmembers and 24 passengers, including Herfkens and her husband, came down due to foul weather. The flight departed from Ho Chi Minh City and was bound for the resort city of Nha Trang, about 305km north-east of the southern hub.
Some passengers survived the initial impact but died before they were rescued. Herfkens, alone in the wilderness of the jungle and staying with many of the dead bodies, remained alive by drinking rainwater.
Only eight days later, all seven members of the Mi-8 flight rescue group also died in the same valley while trying to approach the doomed airplane.
After a simple lunch at a small inn in the district on Wednesday, to Herfkens’ and everyone’s surprise, the inn owner, 64-year-old Ho Trong Nhung, recognized her and revealed that he was one of the men who rushed her across O Kha Valley for medical treatment.
Herfkens and her daughter emotionally drank in every detail which Nhung recounted through an interpreter.
The woman repeatedly expressed her heartfelt thanks to him.
The Dutch woman then visited Cao Van Hanh, a local official, who was the first member of the search team to hear her “childlike” moan for help and see her moving slightly after eight days of being alone and injured in the wilderness of the O Kha forest.
Hanh was the “ghost” who Herfkens thought him to be, as he vanished without a trace as soon as she caught a glimpse of him.
The official revealed that he also thought she was a ghost when he first spotted her, adding that he “vanished” after tripping over a large log.
The man then shouted to his team to rescue Herfkens.
The Dutch survivor gratefully told him that her daughter is also his flesh and blood, as without him, she would not have made it out to get married and give birth to the girl and her brother.
Hanh then took Herfkens, her daughter and the two perished pilots’ wives to Dau Bo Spring in Son Trung Commune, across which she was carried and rushed to hospital and also where the deceased victims were temporarily placed.
Before leaving the area, the woman also visited the two female nurses who helped in the emergency operation to save her.
Herfkens and her daughter visited Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday to meet the local media and present her book “Turbulence: A True Story of Survival“- her personal account of the plane crash and her incredible survival.
The book, which has received a warm embrace from readers after being published in the U.S. in January, recounts how she survived eight days with multiple injuries before being rescued from the accident.
It also describes how she managed to rebuild her life, resume her career, and find love again after the rescue.
Herfkens also shared with Vietnamese readers about her positive life attitude and willpower.