Vesna Vulovic: The Stewardess Who Survived a bombing at 33,000 feet On January 26, 1972, a Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 departed from Copenhagen for Belgrade (via Zagreb) with 28 passengers and crew. At an altitude of approximately 33,000 feet, a bomb in the cargo section planted by the Ustashe Croatian separatist group exploded. The plane disintegrated and fell into the mountains below. In what must be one of the greatest survival stories of all time, stewardess Vesna Vulovic survived the 33,000 foot descent in the tail section of the plane. The 22 year old Vulovic wasn’t even supposed to be on that plane. As she later stated in an interview, it was another Vesna who was supposed to be on that flight but she was happy with the mix-up as it allowed her to make her first trip to Denmark. She had a fractured skull, two broken legs, and three broken vertebrae – one of which was crushed and left her paralyzed from the waist down. Vulovic spent several months in and out of hospitals and operations allowed her to walk once again. She became a celebrity when the Guinness Book of World Records invited her to a ceremony in London with Paul McCartney (she is listed for surviving the longest fall without a parachute). Vulovic is now a national hero in Serbia and spent the late 90s marching in Belgrade against Slobodan Milosovic.
Frane Selak: Escaped from a derailed train, a door-less plane, a bus crash, a car into flames, another 2 car accidents… then won Million Dollar lottery! Luck has always been on his side or vice versa for croatian music teacher Frane Selak (born in 1929), who is well known around the world for as many fatal accidents as spectacular escapes. The first of his numerous near-death experiences began on a cold January day in 1962, when Selak was on a train to Dubrovnik. Seldom had Selak thought where he was heading until odyssey terminated, with the train suddenly plunging into the icy river killing 17 passengers. Although he managed to escape, not without a broken arm, minor scratches and bruises. A year later, Selak was flying from Zagreb to Rijeka when abruptly a door blew away from the cockpit of the plane, as he was blown off the plane. The accident took a tool of 19 people; however, Selak was lucky enough to land on a haystack, to wake up in hospital with minor injuries. It was in 1966 that he met with the third misadventure while traveling on a bus that crashed and plunged into a river. There were four people dead, astonishingly Selak managed to escape unharmed. In 1970, Selak was driving along when all of a sudden his car caught fire. He was fortunate again to have left the car before the fuel tank exploded. Three years later, Selak’s another car caught fire, blowing flames through the air vents. To a greater dismay, Selak only injury was that he lost most of his hair. He named “Lucky” by his friends. In 1995, Selak was in Zagreb when a bus hit him, this time again it was nothing more for the man, except a few injuries. The following year, while driving through a mountain road, Selak drove off a guardrail to escape an oncoming truck and landed on a tree to watch his car explode 300 feet below. Surprisingly, with the turn of events in 2003, Selak won $1,000,000 dollars in the Croatian lottery, when he was heard saying “I know God was watching me over all these years.” Selak feels he can be looked upon either as “the world’s unluckiest man, or the world’s luckiest man,” however he prefers the latter.
Andes Survivors: Crashed on the Andes Mountains, lasted 72 days On Friday the 13th of October, 1972, a Uruguayan Air Force twin turboprop Fairchild FH-227D was flying over the Andes carrying Stella Maris College’s “Old Christians” rugby union team from Montevideo, Uruguay, to play a match in Santiago, Chile. When the plane was flying through the pass in the mountains, the pilot notified air controllers in Santiago that he was over Curicó, Chile, and was cleared to descend. This would prove to be a fatal error. Since the pass was covered by the clouds, the pilots had to rely on the usual time required to cross the pass (dead reckoning). However, they failed to take into account strong headwinds that ultimately slowed the plane and increased the time required to complete the crossing. As a result, the turn and descent was initiated too soon, before the plane had passed through the mountains. Dipping into the cloud cover while still over the mountains, the Fairchild soon crashed on an unnamed peak (later called Glacier of Tears), located between Chile and Argentina. Twelve people died in the crash. Survivors not only had to withstand the hunger and the fearful Mountains, but also 30 degree-below-zero temperatures during the night. They tried to survive with the scarce food reserves they had until being rescued, but they lost their hope when heard that the search had ceased on the radio. Desperate owing to the lack of food and physically exhausted, they were forced to feed themselves on their death partners to keep on living. Finally fed up with the extremely low temperatures and the avalanche threats, as well as anguished by the continuos deaths of their partners and the bad rescue prospects, two of them decided to cross the huge mountains to reach Chile. On 22nd of December of 1972, after being isolated for 72 days, the World found out and knew there were 16 survivors that beat Death in the Andes mountains.
Anatoli Bugorski: The Man Who Survived a Beam from a Particle Accelerator As a researcher at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino, Bugorski used to work with the largest Soviet particle accelerator, the Synchrotron U-70. On July 13, 1978, Bugorski was checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment when an accident occurred due to failed safety mechanisms. Bugorski was leaning over the piece of equipment when he stuck his head in the part through which the proton beam was running. Reportedly, he saw a flash “brighter than a thousand suns”, but did not feel any pain. The beam measured about 200,000 rads when it entered Bugorski’s skull, and about 300,000 rads when it exited after colliding with the inside of his head. The left half of Bugorski’s face swelled up beyond recognition, and over the next several days started peeling off, showing the path that the proton beam (moving near the speed of light) had burned through parts of his face, his bone, and the brain tissue underneath. As it was believed that about 500 to 600 rads is enough to kill a person, Bugorski was taken to a clinic in Moscow where the doctors could observe his expected demise. However, Bugorski survived and even completed his Ph.D.. There was virtually no damage to his intellectual capacity, but the fatigue of mental work increased markedly. Bugroski completely lost hearing in the left ear and only a constant, unpleasant internal noise remained. The left half of his face was frozen, due to the destruction of nerves, and does not age. He is able to function perfectly well, save the fact that he has occasional petit mal seizures and very occasional grand mal seizures.
Roy Sullivan: Struck by Lightning 7 Times Roy Sullivan was a Virginia Forest Ranger who had an incredible attraction to lightning… or rather it had an attraction to him. Over his 36-year career as a ranger, Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times – and survived each jolt, but not unscathed. His seventh strike put him in the Guinness Book of World Records: In 1942, the first lightning strike shot through Sullivan’s leg and knocked his big toenail off. In 1969, a second strike burned off his eyebrows and knocked him unconscious. In 1970, another strike left his shoulder seared. In 1972 his hair was set on fire and Roy had to dump a bucket of water over his head to cool off. On August 7, 1973, another bolt ripped through his hat and hit him on the head, set his hair on fire again, threw him out of his truck and knocked his left shoe off. On June 5, 1976, a sixth strike in 1976 left him with an injured ankle. On June 25th, 1977, the last lightning bolt to hit Roy Sullivan sent him to the hospital with chest and stomach burns in 1977. His wife was also struck once, when a sudden storm welled up as she and her husband were out hanging wash on the back yard clothesline. On September 28, 1983, Roy Sullivan died at age 71, reportedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound over troubles unrelated to lightning. Simon Yates: Conquered Siula Grande, dropped 100ft into an Ice Crevasse, crawled 3 days
Truman Duncan: Cut in Two by a Train Railroad switchman Truman Duncan fell off the front of a moving train car. He was swept underneath and cut in two. Despite losing both legs and a kidney, Duncan called the paramedics on his cell phone, survived a 45-minute wait, and then persevered through 23 surgeries. Aron Ralston: Amputated his lower right Arm to Survive the Mountains On May 2003, while Aron Ralston was on a canyoneering trip in Blue John Canyon (near Moab, Utah), a boulder fell and pinned his right forearm, crushing it. Over five days of trying to lift and break the boulder, desperation took him to great measures like carving his name, date of birth and date of death into the boulder, drinking his own urine because of lack of water and videotaping his last goodbyes to his family. Finally, a dehydrated and delirious Ralston decided to bow his arm against a chockstone and snap the radius and ulna bones. Using the dull blade on his multiuse tool, he cut the soft tissue around the break. He then used the tool’s pliers to tear at the tougher tendons. After Ralston was rescued, his arm was retrieved by park authorities and removed from under the boulder. It was cremated and given to Ralston. He returned to the boulder and left the ashes there. Robert Evans: Survived Being Hit by Car, Then Train Hours Later “He got two ambulance rides last night,” said the police. “It’s an extreme oddity that someone is hit by a car and a train on the same night. I can’t imagine that this has ever happened before in Boulder.” An early morning of September 2008, 46-year-old homeless man Robert Evans had a hit-and-run car accident. An then, when he was walking back from a hospital to his camp, he was knocked off a narrow railroad bridge into a creek by a train, surviving the second accident in seven hours. Police said Evans was hit by the railing of a stairway on the side of the train. The railroad bridge is only wide enough to accommodate the train tracks and is not intended for pedestrians or other traffic.
Mauro Prosperi: Survived 9 days in the Sahara Desert Prosperi, a keen endurance runner, took part in the 1994 Marathon des Sables (Marathon of the Sands) in Morocco. Part way through the 6-day 233 kilometre event a sandstorm caused Prosperi to lose his way. He ended up disoriented and ran in the wrong direction, ultimately running several hundred kilometres into Algeria. After 36 hours he ran out of food and water. He survived by drinking his own urine and eating bats resident in an abandoned mosque and the occasional snake found in the desert. Not wishing to die a long drawn out death, Prosperi attempted to commit suicide in the mosque by slitting his wrists with a pen knife he had with him. The attempt failed – lack of water had caused Prosperi’s blood to thicken and clotted the wound before he died. After nine days alone in the desert he was found by a nomadic family and taken to an Algerian military camp and from there to a hospital. He was 186 miles off route, and reportedly had lost between 30 and 40 pounds (18 kg) in body weight.