Falling is one of humans’ deepest, most primordial fears. And it’s a worthy thing to be afraid of, given that the impact from any fall of significant height is likely to cause serious injuries and could even lead to death. This reality is likely the reason why people are so scared of heights, yet it’s actually possible to live through even the most traumatic falls – as people who have fallen off of buildings but lived to tell the tale prove.
There are all types of situations whereby someone might accidentally plummet from a great height. They could fall from the side of a cruise ship in rough seas or have their parachute fail to open during a skydive. Whatever the case, it’s perfectly clear that falling from anything high would be a truly terrifying ordeal. Just take heart from the fact that such incidents do not always equal death.
Vesna Vulovic Holds The Record For The Highest Fall Survived Without A Parachute
In January 1972, Vesna Vulovic was on a flight over what was then Czechoslovakia as a flight attendant for Jugoslavenski Aerotransport. The aircraft broke up in midair when a bomb exploded onboard, killing everybody with the exception of Vulovic. She fell an estimated 33,333 ft before landing on the ground and somehow managed to survive. She was seriously injured from the accident, however.
She spent 16 months in the hospital and was in a coma for 27 days, as well as having dozens of broken bones. However, she went on to make a full recovery.
Bear Grylls Almost Died In An SAS Training Mission
Before he became a popular television personality and adventurer, Bear Grylls spent a short amount of time in the armed forces. During this military service, he was involved with the SAS Territorial Army and took part in a training exercise over Zambia. During a skydive, his parachute failed to inflate.
Thinking he had time to fix the problem before he hit the ground, he chose not to open the reserve chute and instead fell 16,000 ft and landed on his parachute pack. Although he narrowly avoided severing his spinal cord, he did break his back, which required him to go through 12 months of 10-hour-a-day physiotherapy.
Juliane Koepcke Lived After Her Plane Was Struck By Lightning
Juliane Koepcke was a passenger on a flight traveling over Peru on Christmas Eve in 1971 when the plane began to experience heavy turbulence. After several minutes of passing through the storm, an engine on the wing was hit by lightning, and the aircraft plummeted towards the ground. Juliane was the only survivor out of the 91 passengers on board, and the 17-year-old landed in the jungle with a broken collar bone, one shoe, and only a few sweets for food.
She spent 10 days in the Peruvian jungle before she was rescued. The leading theory for how she survived is that the heavy vegetation softened her fall while the row of seats she was strapped in acted as a makeshift glider.
Christine McKenzie Fell 11,000 Feet Onto Power Lines
August 2004 was not a good month for South African skydiver Christine McKenzie. The 23-year-old was in free-fall when her parachute failed to open. This prompted her to try her reserve chute, but this too malfunctioned and became tangled as it partially inflated. The incredibly rare occurrence meant that McKenzie hardly slowed before she smashed into a series of powerlines before hitting the ground. Those powerlines saved her life, though, absorbing most of the energy from the fall and drastically reducing her impact.
Despite the fact that literally everything that could go wrong in her jump did go wrong, McKenzie managed to survive with just a broken pelvis and some bruising.
Alan Magee Lived Through A Plane Crash
WWII Air Force Sergeant Alan Magee was part of a B-17 Flying Fortress crew that was hit by German fire during a mission. The airman not only found himself plummeting towards the planet’s surface in the wreckage of his plane, but he had also been hit by gunfire during the attack. Yet, miraculously, he still managed to eject himself from the aircraft.
Falling through the air, Magee found that his parachute wouldn’t work as it had been damaged, meaning he was in free fall when he crashed through the glass ceiling of a train station. Bizarrely, this glass ceiling actually managed to save his life, cushioning the fall enough so that he only had some minor injuries.
‘Miracle Man’ Joshua Hanson Survives Fall From City Hotel
Joshua Hanson astounded doctors when he survived a 200 ft fall from a hotel that would almost certainly have killed anyone else. The accident happened when Hanson ran from an elevator in January 2007. He lost his balance and fell through a window, plummeting from the 17th floor of the building onto an overhanging roof.
From there, he fell to the ground, somehow landing on his feet. The 29-year-old suffered a myriad of serious injuries, including internal bleeding and multiple broken bones but was lucky to simply stay alive.
James Boole Stayed Alive During A Skydive Gone Wrong
James Boole is an incredibly experienced skydiver who completed some 2,500 jumps during his lifetime. However, all of this experience did not prevent him from falling 6,000 ft in Russia when he opened his parachute too late for it to fully inflate. He hit the ground with a tremendous amount of force, leaving a one-yard crater in the snow.
Somehow, Boole was able to survive, sustaining a broken back and ribs. This allowed a miraculous recovery whereby he could walk after just a week of the accident.
Steve Fossett’s Hot Air Balloon Was Destroyed By A Storm As He Crashed To Earth
Steve Fossett was an adventurer who made several attempts to travel around the world in a hot air balloon. In one such attempt in August 1998, he suffered a catastrophic accident as his balloon crashed into a storm front. Hail tore apart the structure and sent his small capsule tumbling towards Earth. After falling almost 30,000 ft, Fossett woke up to discover he had not only survived the ordeal but was also completely unharmed.
The capsule had landed in water and protected him from injury, though, he did have to spend 10 hours at sea before he was rescued.
Teen Survived Suicide Leap From Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge has become a hugely popular location for those attempting to commit suicide. The 200+ ft fall kills 98% of all of those who jump on impact, and the icy cold waters below make it even harder to survive. But survival is possible. This is exactly what happened to a 16-year-old girl who jumped from the bridge in April 2011.
Precisely how she survived is not known, but research suggests that the younger and fitter a person is the more likely they are to manage to live through the ordeal.
Felix Baumgartner Survived A Jump From Space
Unlike many of the entries in this article, Felix Baumgartner did not fall from a great height by accident. Instead, his plummet was a stunt performed in partnership with Red Bull in October 2012. The Austrian jumped out of a balloon at a staggering 128,100 ft and reached a maximum speed of 833.9 mph during the descent. Although the parachute deployed as planned in the last few seconds of the 10 minute drop, Felix did run into trouble twice.
While heading down into the final part of Earth’s atmosphere, his visor began to fog due to a malfunction, and while he was dropping he began to tumble rather than remain in a special delta position. Fortunately, he managed to recover and was completely unharmed upon landing.
The World War II Gunner Who Jumped From A Burning Plane Lived
The year of 1944 was a torrid time for anyone living in Europe, but members of the Royal Air Force faced even more danger as it was the height of the Battle of Britain. In March of that year, rear gunner Sgt Nicholas Alkemade was in a Lancaster bomber that was hit by enemy fire. With his parachute destroyed by the resulting fire, the airman had only one choice – to jump from the plane before it crashed.
Falling from at least 18,000 ft, his landing was softened by trees and deep snow in Berlin, meaning he only broke a wrist and his leg.
Tim Stilwell Fell From The Fifteenth Floor Of A Hotel
After finding out that he was locked out of his own apartment in June 2013, Tim Stilwell decided the best course of action was to try to hang and drop onto his neighbor’s balcony. Things didn’t exactly go as planned, and the 20-year-old slipped and fell from the fifteenth floor of the building and landed on the roof of a building at ground level. According to medical experts who attended the scene, he was incredibly lucky to have survived the fall.
And some suggested that the roof of the building may have broken his fall, preventing life-threatening injuries. He came away with broken bones and internal bruising but was expected to make a full recovery.