James Boole: the extreme sports lover who survived a 6,000 ft fall without a parachute
A skydiver from Staffordshire plunged 6,000 ft without a parachute in Russia and survived to tell the tale. Hitting rocks at an estimate 100 kilometers per hour, miracle man 31-year-old James Boole, from Tamworth, was filming a TV documentary in Russia when his parachute launched only seconds to the ground. James Boole failed to open his chute until it was too late after a communications error with a fellow extreme sport lover. Mr Boole landed on snow-covered rocks and suffered a broken back and rib.
Joe Herman: the Australian pilot who survived a free fall by grabbing a fellow flyer's leg
Joe Herman, of the Royal Australian Air Force, was blown out of his bomber in 1944 without a parachute. He found himself falling through the night sky amid airplane debris and wildly grabbed a piece of it. It turned out to be not debris at all, but rather a fellow flyer, John Vivash, in the process of pulling his ripcord. The parachute inflated slowly, which helped Herman maintain his grasp on Vivash. Joe hung on and, as a courtesy, hit the ground first, breaking the fall of his savior and a mere two ribs of his own.
Nicholas Alkemade: the World War II tail gunner who survived a fall of 18,000 feet (5500) after his plane was shut down
On March 24, 1944, 21 year old Flight Sergeant Nicholas Stephen Alkemade was a member of No. 115 Squadron RAF and was flying to the east of Schmallenberg, Germany, when his plane was attacked by enemies, caught fire, and began to spiral out of control. Because his parachute was destroyed by the fire, Alkemade opted to jump from the aircraft without one, preferring his death to be quick, rather than being burnt to death. He fell 18,000 feet (5500 m) to the ground below. His fall was broken by pine trees and a soft snow cover on the ground. He was able to move his arms and legs and suffered only a sprained leg. When he came to his senses and saw stars overhead, he lit a cigarette.
He was subsequently captured and interviewed by the Gestapo. The orderly Germans were so impressed that Alkemade had bailed out without a parachute and lived, that they gave him a certificate testifying to the fact.
Bahia Bakari: the 14-year-old sole survivor of Yemenia Airways
Bahia Bakari is a French schoolgirl who became world famous as the sole survivor of Yemenia Flight 626, an Airbus A310, which crashed into the Indian Ocean near the north coast of Grande Comore, Comoros on June 30, 2009, killing all other 152 people on board. Bakari, who could barely swim and had no life vest, clung to aircraft wreckage, floating in heavy seas for more than 13 hours, much of it in pitch darkness, before being rescued by the Sima Com 2, a privately owned ship. As soon as Bakari was sighted, a member of the rescue team threw her a life preserver, but the waters were too rough, and she was too exhausted to grab it. One of the sailors, Maturaffi Sélémane Libounah, jumped into the water and handed her a flotation device, after which they were both pulled safely aboard the Sima Com 2, where she was given dry blankets and a hot drink. Her mother, who had been traveling with her from Paris, France, for a summer vacation in Comoros, died in the crash.
Dave Hodgman: the skydiver who got tangled up with another jumper at 2,500 feet
In March of 1985 Dave Hodgman jumped at 12,000 feet as part of a group that was attempting to build a formation in Victoria, Australia. He was unable to reach the group and moved away. When he opened his parachute at around 2,500 feet he did not realize he was below another jumper, who also did not realize he was there. The other jumper, named Frank, was just opening his own chute at the time. His body collided with Dave, knocking him out and tangling with his lines. The two men came down together under Frank's inflated chute and Dave's chute, which collapsed and reinflated through the entire ride. Frank had no control and the two came down between some cars in a packed-gravel parking lot. Dave was badly injured but returned to jumping within three months. Frank's injuries were minor.
Vesna Vulović: the JAT stewardess who survived a 33,000 feet fall
Twenty-two year old, Vesna Vulovic, was a flight attendant on Yugoslav Airlines DC-9 enroute from Stockholm to Belgrade. A bomb, which may have been planted in the front baggage compartment of the plane, exploded onboard when the aircraft was at 33,330 ft. Vulovic was in the tail section that fell to Earth. It landed at just the right angle on a slope of snow covered mountains. She was the only survivor among the 28 passengers and crew. She broke both her legs and was paralyzed from the waist down. She was in a coma for 27 days. Her recovery took 17 months. She continued to fly with Yugoslav Airlines for 20 more years.
She holds the world record, according to the Guinness Book of Records, for surviving the highest fall without a parachute: 10,160 meters (33,333 feet).
NOTE: It was never proved that the plane was torn apart by a bomb. In January 2009 German ARD radio Prague office research and Czech journalist Pavel Theiner proposed a conspiracy theory that the plane was shot by accident by the Czechoslovak air force.
Juliane Koepcke: the teenager who survived a 2 miles (3 km) high plane crash and the Amazon rainforest
On Christmas Eve 1971, LANSA Flight 508 from Lima, Peru, to Pucallpa, Peru, crashed during a thunderstorm killing 91 people – all of its 6 crew and 85 of its 86 passengers. The sole survivor was a 17 year old girl, called Juliane Köpcke , who fell 2 miles (3 km) down into the Amazon rainforest strapped to her seat and remarkably survived the fall. The next morning, the high school student awoke in the jungle floor, surrounded by fallen holiday gifts. Injured and alone, she pushed her mother's death, who'd been seated next to her on the plane, out of her mind. Instead, she remembered one of her father's advice, a biologist: To find civilization when lost in the jungle, follow water. Koepcke waded from tiny streams to larger ones. She passed crocodiles and poked the mud in front of her with a stick to scare away stingrays. She had lost one shoe in the fall and was wearing a ripped miniskirt. Her only food was a bag of candy, and she had nothing but dark, dirty water to drink. She ignored her broken collarbone and her wounds, infested with maggots.
On the tenth day, she rested on the bank of the Shebonya River. When she stood up again, she saw a canoe tethered to the shoreline. It took her hours to climb the embankment to a hut, where, the next day, a group of lumberjacks found her. The incident was seen as a miracle in Peru, and free-fall statistics seem to support those arguing for divine intervention.
Mohammed el-Fateh Osman:the 2-year-old wreckage rider who suvived a jet crash in Sudan in 2003
The crashed happened shortly after leaving Port Sudan airport, killing 116 people. The only survivor was found lying on a fallen tree with multiple injuries. About 10 minutes after takeoff heading from Port Sudan on the northeastern coast to the capital, the pilot of a Boeing 737 radioed the control tower about a problem in one engine. The pilot killed that engine and told the tower he was returning to the airport. Ten minutes later, the Sudanese airliner plunged into a hillside while attempting an emergency landing killing 116 people and leaving only two-year-old Sudanese boy, Mohammed el-Fateh Osman, as the sole survivor. The boy was found injured and lying on a fallen tree by a nomad. The boy's mother was among the victims. Mohammed lost part of a lower leg and was treated for severe burning.
Alan Magee: the World War II American airman who survived a 22,000 foot fall after his plane was hit during an attack
Alan Magee was blown from his B-17 on a 1943 mission over France. The New Jersey airman, more recently the subject of a MythBusters episode, fell 20,000 feet (6,700 m - over four miles) before crashing through the glass roof of the St. Nazaire railroad station. Somehow the glass roof mitigated Magee's impact and rescuers found him still alive on the station's floor. He was subsequently captured by German troops, who were astonished at his survival. He had 28 shrapnel wounds in addition to the damage from the fall. He had several broken bones, severe damage to his nose and eye, and lung and kidney damage, his right arm was severely injured as well.
Ivan Chisov: the Soviet Lieutenant who survived a fall of 21,980 ft after passing out
Lieutenant Chisov was a Soviet Airforce Lieutenant on an Ilyushin Il-4 bomber. In January of 1942, German fighters attacked his bomber, forcing him to bail out at an altitude of approximately 22,000 feet. With the battle still raging around him, Lt. Chisov intentionally did not open his parachute, since he feared that he would just be an easy target for an angry German while he was dangling from his parachute harness. He planned on dropping below the level of the battle, and then, once he was out of sight of the German fighters, he would open his chute and land safely. However, he lost consciousness on the way down, and was unable to pull the rip cord. Miraculously, he was not killed. He hit the edge of a snowy ravine at an estimated speed of somewhere between 120 and 150 mph, then slid, rolled, and plowed his way down to the bottom. He suffered spinal injuries and a broken pelvis, but was able to fly again three months later.