Survival stories are big news ... if being featured on a morning talk show qualifies as "big news." But sometimes the circumstances are seemingly so impossible that they skip right over Good Morning America and launch themselves straight into Looney Tunes territory. Take, for example, the time when ...
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Babies can barely defend themselves against a cushy blanket during a vigorous game of peek-a-boo, let alone the forces of gravity. So if we told you that an 18-month-old baby survived a six-story fall from the window of his apartment building unscathed, you'd probably be somewhat dubious. And if we then elaborated by telling you that he survived said fall thanks to a well-timed bounce off of the awning of a cafe below, you could be forgiven for thinking that we just sprouted a face-mounted horseshit cannon. And if we further explained that the child also landed smack dab in the arms of a random passerby who just so happened to be a doctor? Well ... we don't know what would happen. People usually walk away from us long before we get to that part.
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But it's all true: It happened to a particularly rubberlike youngster in Paris who flopped right into the arms of Dr. Philippe Bensignor as he strode past the closed cafe at precisely the right time. And just to put the icing on the ol' bullshit cake, the awning that broke his fall was only open that day because its closing apparatus had broken.
According to witnesses in a neighboring building, the miniature daredevil was playing near the window with his older sister moments before he fell from his apartment. Doctor/Accidental Hero Bensignor was casually strolling by with his wife and child just seconds before the incident and confessed that it was pure luck that he was able to intervene. "I was there at the right time," he said. "My son saw a little boy on a balcony. He had gone right outside the railing ... I said to myself I mustn't miss him."
Obviously the bouncing baby boy was a little shaken by the experience mentally, but physically he was good as new after a quick blow on his thumb to reinflate him.
Still, six stories is child's play (God, we're so sorry) compared to this next one ...
After seven years, countless jumps, and the prestige of being the youngest person in the U.K. to qualify as a skydiving instructor, it's safe to say that Michael Holmes had pretty much nailed this "falling out of a plane" business. But a single 14,000-foot, 100 mph free fall with a gimpy parachute is enough to make even the most seasoned skydiver shit his flapping skypants, same as the rest of us.
It was a routine jump (or at least as "routine" as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane can be) until Holmes released his main chute, only to watch it wrap around itself and become tangled. And even though his experience and training kicked in immediately, the chute had already hit the fan (we're less sorry for that one), and the reserve couldn't deploy. The most amazing part? Holmes captured the entire horrifying incident via his helmet cam:
You can really feel the fear and desperation he was experiencing during his short and inevitable journey to Squishville (Population: Not Your Bones). Knowing that the end was near, Holmes used his few remaining seconds on this Earth (or above it, if you want to get technical) to wax philosophical on the nature of the universe, brilliantly summarizing the hopelessness of the human situation in a heartfelt, five-word requiem: "Oh, fuck! I'm dead. Bye."
Astoundingly, Holmes landed with much less of a splatting noise than either he or his jumping partner was expecting. Rather than spreading all over the landscape in a thin layer of Michael jam, Holmes survived the fall with a mere broken ankle and a collapsed lung -- all thanks to a lowly blackberry bush. That's right: He fell two straight miles, landed in a bush, and walked away from it (metaphorically speaking) mostly fine -- save for (presumably) some of those scratch marks that look like pound symbols on his cheeks.
Depending on your perspective, 5 inches can be a perfectly average and acceptable collection of inches, thank you very much -- or it can be a horribly inadequate source of despair (stop laughing, Becky).
Back in December of 2008, a 25-year-old factory worker from Barnsley, England, discovered the latter firsthand by somehow surviving being pulled through a gap the size of a goddamn CD case.
Matthew Lowe was processing steel beams with a machine presumably made by ACME when his clothing got snagged on its conveyor belt. Unable to free himself and totally powerless to prevent the inevitable, he stopped resisting and surrendered completely to the situation. "I knew what was going to happen so I just relaxed and hoped for the best," Lowe recalls. His entire body (except for his head, which luckily slipped through a bigger gap) was dragged through the 5-inch opening before the machine unceremoniously spat him out the other side. Unfortunately, humans don't share many attributes with Play-Doh, and after being extruded through the machine like a wad of fleshy clay, Lowe emerged with a broken back, hips, pelvis, and ribs, with a ruptured stomach and bowels just for good measure.
Still in shock, it took several seconds for the pain to set in. Once it did, though, the time it took for Lowe's blood-curdling screams to alert his fellow co-workers can only be measured in Planck units. Miraculously, thanks to six surgeries and Lowe's apparent Wile E. Coyote-like ability to snap back from ridiculously massive injury, the only signs that he was ever hurt at all now are a somewhat weakened right arm ...
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... and a refurbished metal skeletal frame that basically turned him into a ridiculously fragile version of Wolverine. We suppose that's worth mentioning, too.
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It's common knowledge that Australia is the continental equivalent of a serial killer, but did you know that even the air above it is criminally insane? We're talking thunderstorms so dark and intense, they make Morrissey look like a sunny afternoon picnic.
We're not sure if 35-year-old paraglider Ewa Wisnerska deliberately chose to fistfight one of said hellstorms or simply failed to notice the giant, ominous cloud as she flew directly underneath it, but the result was a 67-foot-per-second whirl up God's very own twisty straw that ended at a dizzying height of 32,000 feet in just 15 minutes.
That's around the same altitude your average airliner cruises at, so you can imagine that it's not exactly the friendliest of places for a human body to be -- for example, at that altitude, Wisnerska was pelted with hail the size of oranges. At the pinnacle of her flight, the darkness was nearly complete, and the temperature dropped to an extremity-shattering minus 58 degrees -- so cold that she went full Encino Man. Wisnerska closed her eyes, ready to die, and when she next opened them, she was 40 miles away from where her journey had started.
Wisnerska, awake but still totally frozen, had no choice but to let gravity do its thing until she finally touched down, alive, presumably to begin a series of increasingly obnoxious adventures with Pauly Shore. Godfrey Wenness, the organizer of the paragliding world championships, was completely baffled -- the previous altitude record was "just" 24,000 feet. "There's no oxygen," he said. "She could have suffered brain damage. But she came to at a height of 6,900 meters with ice all over her body and slowly descended herself." No word on whether they loaded her onto a furniture dolly and wheeled her next to a campfire to defrost, but we're going to assume so.
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As far as we know, trucker Steven McCormack possesses the dubious honor of being the only person in history to literally inflate himself like a beach ball and live to tell the tale. No, it wasn't some elaborate sex game gone wrong (inflatorotica?), but just a matter of an ass cheek being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
McCormack was doing a bit of maintenance between his truck and its trailer when he slipped and fell ass-first onto one of the brass valves that connect the brakes to the compressed air supply. The nozzle pierced his buttock and shot air into his body at an intense 100 pounds per square inch. So much air pumped into him so quickly that he ballooned up to twice his original size, which you might recognize as the most unbelievable part of Big Trouble in Little China (and yes, we're counting Kurt Russell's unbelievably majestic mullet).
The pressure separated muscle from fat, and even the space around McCormack's lungs was pumped full of air, compressing his heart and damn near killing him in the process. His co-workers managed to cut the air supply and keep him away from sharp objects while they waited nearly an hour for emergency personnel to arrive, presumably because the dispatcher was too busy calling bullshit to actually send someone out.
Sadly, it was just air and not helium, so paramedics were unable to simply tie McCormack to the bumper of the ambulance and lead him to the hospital like a living Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. Once at the hospital, doctors found it impossible to insert an IV because the immense pressure inside McCormack's body shot the needle right back out. And the comedy gods weren't quite done smiling down on ol' Steve just yet, because it turns out the only way to release that much air from inside a human body is -- you guessed it -- the natural way.
It took three days, by the way. We're picturing a hospital draped in biohazard tape, with its roof being literally lifted from the building by each epic, Earth-shattering fart.
When Jamie isn't bouncing into the arms of passing strangers, he likes to blog over at Psycholocrazy. If you enjoyed his words, then come and check out why he thinks being beautiful sucks and get his free e-book too!
Related Reading: Speaking of unbelievable survival this runner survived a 130 mile marathon through the Sahara with no food or water. Sometimes death-defying feats are less impressive than they seem: 96% of plane crash victims survive. On the other hand, plenty of survivable movie injuries would kill your ass in real life.