Five World Records Beaten by Accident

Sometimes you really don’t mean to fall out of a plane without a parachute at 33,000 feet
Five World Records Beaten by Accident

Some people use their entire allotted time on this planet chasing world records, and all told, it’s not a bad way to spend a life. Most of us just watch America’s Next Top Model while pouring Cheetos directly into our mouths, so keep jumping out of planes, friends. But some people don’t even mean to jump out of planes. They were just living their Cheeto-eating lives when a wacky series of events conspired to elevate them to the halls of Guinness and the envy of all its acolytes.

Vesna Vulović Survived the Highest Fall Without a Parachute

Speaking of jumping out of planes, that’s kind of the opposite of what allowed Vesna Vulović to break the world record for the highest fall survived without a parachute. In 1972, she was just an average 22-year-old flight attendant when the plane she was working on suddenly exploded over what is now the Czech Republic. It turned out a bomb placed in a suitcase by Croatian nationalist terrorists had doomed almost everyone onboard to a truly grisly death — except Vulović, who luckily found herself pinned inside an enclosed section of the plane by a food cart. That, plus the section’s final resting place in a thick bank of snow and Vulović’s good sense to immediately pass out, protected her just enough to save her life.

Of course, if you fall 33,000 feet to the ground and just brush yourself off and walk away, the government starts doing experiments on you. Vulović was far from okay, but with intense rehab, she regained the ability to walk in less than a year. She was even excited to go back to work, but the airline put her on desk duty, not because of her injuries, Vulović insisted, but because “they didn’t want so much publicity about the accident.” They did indeed seem image-conscious, because Vulović was eventually fired for protesting the regime of Slobodan Milošević, so it’s nice to see that she didn’t let the whole “blown up by Croatian nationalists” thing affect her political principles.

Matthew McKnight Was Thrown the Greatest Distance By a Car

It was already a bad day on Interstate 367 in Monroeville, Pennsylvania on October 26, 2001. Two men in a pickup truck had hit a car parked on the side of the highway and flipped over, coincidentally right around the time 23-year-old Matthew McKnight’s mom was driving him home from his shift as a paramedic at a local hospital. McKnight insisted on pulling over to help the men and was attempting to do so when he was hit head-on by a car that had drifted onto the shoulder at 70 miles per hour. Again, he was hit by a car while helping people who had hit a car. You might think people suck at driving where you live, but they’ve got nothing on Monroeville.

Like Vulović, things worked out entirely better than expected for McKnight. He was pretty banged up, but he only spent two weeks in the hospital and less than three months in rehab before he was back at work. They caught the driver who hit him, some kid who’d been drinking underage and was charged with all the crimes related to that. It turned out McKnight had been thrown 118 feet (about half the length of a football field, because that’s how we measure long distances for some reason), and it was his doctor who recognized that as a potential world record. 

McKnight "thought it was a big joke” when the doctor initially approached him about it because he’s “known for joking around a lot," and strange as it might seem, the big kidder who hears about a horrific accident and mutters to himself “That’s gotta be a record” while furiously Googling is exactly who we want operating on us.

Michael Patrick Buonocore Had the Highest Blood Sugar Levels Ever

On Easter 2008, six-year-old Michael Patrick Buonocore was on vacation with his family, presumably doing what every six-year-old does on Easter morning: eating tons of candy. When he got home, he started to feel crappy, but his parents assumed it was a normal case of eating too much candy until he found himself unable to walk and then passed out, which is not a normal symptom of a Snickers hangover.

Buonocore was roused at the hospital, where he and his family learned that his blood sugar had spiked to 2,656 milligrams per deciliter. To put that in perspective, you can fall into a coma at 500. It’s about 25 times the average and 21 times the highest safe levels of blood sugar. It turned out the child was diabetic, but it was the chill kind of diabetes that had never posed a problem before. Thankfully, he survived to become a totally swole dude who runs a charity for kids with diabetes and poses for beaming photos with his Guinness certificate.

Salvador Alvarenga Spent the Longest Time Lost Alone at Sea

In November 2012, Salvador Alvarenga and his young crewmate, Ezequiel Córdoba, set out off the coast of Mexico for some routine deep-sea fishing. It was a good day, too — they ended up catching over 1,000 pounds of fish in their little 25-foot boat. Then a storm hit out of nowhere, blowing them way farther out than they meant to go. They radioed for help, but there wasn’t a lot that could be done, given they had no anchor and their GPS had been damaged by the water that was steadily rising in their boat, so they had no idea where they were anyway. Then their motor died. Then their radio.

Over the next few months, as the waves took them farther and farther from home, the men survived on whatever they could catch until Córdoba got sick from some raw bird. He started refusing to eat and eventually starved to death, leaving Alvarenga all alone for the next several months, going increasingly sea mad. When he finally caught sight of the Marshall Islands, he thought he was hallucinating, and probably so did the residents who watched Alvarenga emerge from the water, naked, screaming in a foreign language and clutching a knife.

All told, Alvarenga had spent nearly 14 months at sea, most of them alone, breaking the world record for the most time spent lost alone at sea. He drifted more than 6,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, about three-quarters of the way to Asia. It was such an amazing distance and length of time that some people immediately called bullshit on the emaciated, actively hallucinating dude. It caused such an uproar that authorities had to confirm the details of his story with the Mexican search-and-rescue team and scientists who know about the ocean. Bet they all felt real bad after that.

Sergei Krikalev Spent the Most Time in Space

Sergei Krikalev broke the record for the most time in orbit around the Earth over the course of several missions in two decades, but he was definitely helped along by one of those missions. In 1991, he flew up to the Mir space station for what was supposed to be a five-month stint. Four months in, however, the Soviet Union fell. Krikalev was told he couldn’t come home because his home no longer existed.

Of course, he couldn’t just stay in space forever. He didn’t have the training or the supplies for much longer than planned, but the money just wasn’t there to land him because the country wasn’t there, so he kept getting told, “Just one more month, Krikky,” while everyone tried to figure out what to do. He could have come back via Mir’s reentry capsule, but that would have meant abandoning the space station, and he would never have been able to show his face at all the cool astronaut bars again.

Finally, Germany paid for Kirkalev’s return because, Jesus Christ, someone had to, after he logged twice as many months as intended. About 15 years later, he’d racked up enough days in space to break the record, which has since been broken by others, but none due to political clusterfuckery.

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