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A Bus-Load of People Crashes Into a Lake in Front of a Champion Swimmer
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On Sept. 16, 1976, a trolleybus driver in Armenia lost control of his vehicle and careened into Yerevan Lake, quickly sinking more than 30 feet beneath the freezing water. Of the 92 passengers inside, exactly none of them were able to open the doors or windows and escape. There was nothing they could do but sit in the rapidly submerging bus and wait to either drown or freeze to death.
But Luckily ...
A man happened to be out jogging along the lake's dam, and had heard the crash. Now, that wouldn't have done much good considering A) this was pre-cellphones, so he couldn't just call in a rescue and B) the average person can't do a hell of a lot about getting almost a hundred people free of a submerged box deep under freezing water.
"The other guy got a crane. At least give me a damn fishing pole or something."
But this was no average person -- the jogger was Shavarsh Karapetyan, a professional finswimmer who had set multiple world records and held dozens of national and international championships, many of which he is presumably holding in this picture:
"Screw steel; my balls are solid gold."
Though the bus was 80 feet offshore, Karapetyan had neither time nor interest in calling for help. We're talking about the record-breaking finswimming champion of the entire fucking planet here -- Karapetyan was the help. He immediately dove into the lake and swam deep below the surface to save him some entombed public-transit passengers, because let's be honest, nobody deserves to die in a bus.
It's important to note that, even for a freediving Armenian Hercules like Karapetyan, there were several impossible obstacles in play that day -- it was dark; the water was murky, polluted, freezing, and filled with broken glass; he had just run 12 miles as part of his daily exercise; and unaided 30-foot dives are the swimming equivalent of marathoning The Godfather trilogy without taking a bathroom break or fast-forwarding through Part 3. Nevertheless, Karapetyan successfully reached the bus, kicked out the back window, and started dragging people to the surface like he was fishing coins out of a fountain. Once one person was safely on shore, Karapetyan went right back down to grab another.
"At that point my nipples could cut glass, making me more hydrodynamic."
All told, he dove 30 times and saved 20 lives before finally succumbing to exhaustion, blood poisoning, and hypothermia. He fell into a coma and didn't wake for 45 days. When he finally came to, his body had suffered too much damage for him to ever swim professionally again. Even so, he had only two regrets -- one, that he hadn't been able to save more people, and two, that on one dive he mistakenly rescued a dislodged bus seat that he thought was a passenger.
As it turns out, Karapetyan didn't need to be able to swim anymore to tear people free from the jaws of oblivion. Nine years after the bus incident, Karapetyan saved a bunch more people by dragging them out of a burning building. After losing the ability to compete professionally, he'd apparently decided to just double-down on the whole heroism thing.
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For more remarkable strokes of good fortune, check out 4 People Whose Good Luck Defied the Laws of Reality. And then check out The 7 Most Bizarrely Unlucky People Who Ever Lived.
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