1The stuntman who jumped from 25,000 without a parachute and landed safely in a net
In July 2016, stuntman Luke Aikins successfully jumped from a plane without the use of a parachute — willingly. (He's one of two people on our list whose jump minus a chute wasn't an accident.) The daredevil fell from twice the height of an average dive (25,000 feet — skydivers typically jump at about 13,000 feet) and landed in a net about a third of the size of a football field. To see the man with nerves (and other body parts) of steel do his thing, watch below:
2The diver who filmed his accident as he descended
In 2007, skydiver Michael Holmes' harrowing escape from death, desperate farewell, wave goodbye, and hard landing in a blackberry bush were captured by the helmet-mounted cameras he and his instructor donned before jumping from a plane at 14,000 feet.
Holmes, 24 at the time, didn't panic when his main chute failed about 4,000 feet above the ground. Falling back on his extensive experience and training, he ignored his out-of-control spinning — 84 revolutions in all — and worked to free the main chute to clear way for the reserve to open. It did, but much too late to do any real good — his landing into a blackberry bush was what saved him.
He suffered a collapsed lung and broken ankle, but went back to jumping, saying "It's what I do. I love it."
3The diver who discovered she was two weeks pregnant after her freefall
Shayna Richardson began skydiving when she turned 21. In 2005, the Joplin, Missouri woman was making her 10th dive in Siloam Springs, Arkansas with a brand new parachute when things suddenly went wrong. She was diving solo about 3,000 feet up when her chutes failed, and it's estimated she was going 50 mph at impact. "Right before I hit," she said, "I let go and I just, I told God, 'Alright, I know I'm going home now. Just please don't make it hurt.'"
She doesn't remember hitting the ground, but said, "My instructor ran over to me, and he said I sat up, was talking to him, and tried to get up and get around. Of course, he made me stay down. But I don't remember any of that conversation. I just kept repeatedly asking if I was dreaming and if I was still alive."
Richardson now has 15 plates in her face for fractures after four operations. She also suffered two breaks in her pelvis, as well as a broken right fibula. But there was one shock she had yet to discover— at the time of her jump, she was two weeks pregnant. Despite everything that had happened, the fetus was said to be perfectly healthy.
4The man who leapt from 14,000 feet before his parachute and reserve failed
Brad Guy had no intention of jumping without a parachute, but he did — and he's lucky he survived.
Guy was strapped to an instructor and jumped from 14,000 feet when their chute ripped open as it was deployed. He asked, "Are we going to die?" The only response his instructor, a veteran of 2000 tandem jumps, could give was "I don't know."
The backup chute opened correctly but was tangled with the first as they spun toward the ground. The duo fell into soft earth in a dam by a golf course, with Guy on top. Both men spent several weeks in the hospital.
5The first wingsuit diver to land safely without the aid of a parachute
In 2012, U.K. stunt diver Gary Connery, 42, jumped out of a helicopter at 2400 feet and became the first person to complete a successful wingsuit landing without using a parachute.
Connery dropped from high above Henley-on-Thames, England. He reached a speed of 75 miles an hour during his 40-second fall before landing. 18,500 cardboard boxes that formed a 350-foot runway were arranged by about 100 volunteers, friends and family members.
“It was bliss,” Connery said of the flight in a telephone interview. “It's a special, humbling day.”
6The 80-year-old who slipped out of her harness and survived
While we recognize the parachute DID open for 80-year-old Laverne Everett in 2012, her harness didn't hold, and she too almost didn't make it.
Her jump took place at the Parachute Center in Lodi, CA. When it was time to take the plunge, she was (understandably) reluctant to jump out of the plane and held on for dear life. Her instructor freed her hands, and the duo tumbled to almost certain oblivion, 13,000 feet below as seen in the video of their jump, which the FAA reviewed. The agency fined the center $2,200 for allegedly improperly tightening Laverne's harness, which “increased the likelihood the student parachutist would slip from the harness and freefall to the ground.” Watch the harrowing moments here:
7The pilot who survived a three mile fall into the ocean
In 1963, Marine pilot Cliff Judkins bailed from his crippled and flaming FB Crusader jet into the ocean. His parachute was deployed but didn't open. Judkins fell three miles without losing consciousness on the way down or when he hit, and despite his injuries swam to a nearby life raft. He waited three hours to be picked up and was treated for both internal bleeding and broken bones before making a full recovery!
8The novice jumper whose survival was called nothing short of a divine intervention
A novice jumper, mom-of-one Lareece Butler, plummeted to the ground when her parachute became entangled during a skydive. Joos Vos, the skydive manager, said her survival was nothing short of a miracle.
Her boyfriend watched from the ground as she spiraled downward before crashing into a field in South Africa. Butler, then 26, suffered a broken leg and pelvis, concussion and bruising. She later claimed that she had been pushed out of the plane after getting cold feet when she noticed problems with other jumpers' parachutes, but that allegation was denied by the operator, EP Skydiving Club.