Friday the 13th, the unluckiest day of the year, is just around the corner. Perhaps now is a good time to be thankful for all the disasters that haven’t befallen you. The same cannot be said for the people on this list, whose good luck ran out in a big way after the first time they cheated death.
The infamous Final Destination franchise shows us some of the most bizarre and bloodiest ways for people to meet their end after they escaped death’s clutches once. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The people on this list defied death and lived through harrowing experiences, only to find themselves on death’s doorstep again not long after – usually through some seemingly benign, unrelated incident.
Some people seem to be like cats with multiple lives and unending luck. Before delving into the tales of woe from the once-lucky, once-fatally-unlucky folk, consider the famous story of the lucky Croatian, Frane Selak.
Selak cheated death seven times and then won over a million dollars in the lottery. Selak’s first brush with death came when he was rescued from a train that flipped into a river. Then he was blown out of an airplane and landed in a haystack; he swam from a drowning bus; he shot himself in the testicles accidentally; he escaped a burning car… You get the picture. The people on this list are not quite Frane Selak. Their luck ran out the second time around.
Just how farfetched is the idea that by cheating death, it will pursue us relentlessly? These 13 real life stories of people who could not cheat death make a persuasive case for the superstition…
13. Deadly Rescue
In 2013, a 16-year-old Chinese girl named Ye Meng Yuan became the face of a tragic accident while traveling from Seoul, South Korea, to San Francisco. The plane she rode on, Asiana Airlines Flight 214, crashed on the runway of San Francisco’s International Airport.
One fatality out of 305 passengers occurred from the plane crash, but Ye Meng Yuan survived, although injured. While she awaited rescue, tragedy struck when a firetruck coming to the rescue of the survivors ran over her and killed her.
Yuan had just recently turned 16, and she was traveling to California to attend an annual Summer Camp and 15-day English language program at universities.
12. Death at a Funeral
In a series of bizarre events in 2011, 49-year-old Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov found herself at her own funeral. The Russian native was wrongly declared dead by doctors after she suffered a suspected heart attack. As she was being prepared for burial, Mukhametzyanov reportedly awoke to hear people pray for her soul, and she started screaming when she realized that she was at her own funeral.
She suffered another heart attack from the shock, and died. Her husband told the Daily Mail that, “Her eyes fluttered and we immediately rushed her back to the hospital, but she only lived for another 12 minutes in intensive care before she died again, this time for good.” The enraged husband sued the hospital that had erroneously declared Ms. Mukhametzyanov dead the first time.
11. Shocking Obituary
Marcus Garvey was a Jamaican politician, and a staunch proponent of Black Nationalism in the early 1900s. He founded the Black Star Line, which promoted the return of the African diaspora to their ancestral lands. He was a huge influence for Civil Rights leaders who came after him, such as Malcolm X.
In 1940, Garvey was reading the obituaries in the Chicago Defender, where he was shocked to find a mistaken obituary about himself. The negative entry read that Garvey had died “broke, alone and unpopular.” Reading the negative and mistaken obituary prompted Garvey to have two strokes, and he died later in hospital.
10. Disastrous Plane Crash Turns Worse
On December 13, 1977, terrible news spread throughout the United States. The University of Evansville men’s basketball team were involved in a plane crash while taking off from the Evansville Regional Airport in Indiana. The aircraft lost control shortly after lift-off and crashed. 29 people were killed, including the entire basketball team, save for one.
David Furr was the only survivor, and that was because he had missed the flight.
Two weeks later, in a freak occurrence, Furr and his brother were struck by a drunk driver, and both of them were killed. This death left the entire Purple Aces Basketball team dead. A memorial was constructed at the University of Evansville that is known as the “Weeping Basketball.”
9. Double Shooting Tragedy
In June 2012, Texan sportscaster Jessica Redfield narrowly escaped death. She had left the Eaton Centre Mall in Toronto just minutes before a gunman arrived and opened fire on the food court where she’d been eating. He had killed one person and wounded others.
As she later wrote on her blog, she couldn’t “get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling… It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.”
Unfortunately, that weird feeling would not save Jessica twice. Just a month after escaping the Toronto shooting, she was one of the 12 people killed at the infamous Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.
8. Double Airplane Disaster
When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Hilda Yolanda Mayol managed to escape from the ground floor restaurant where she worked.
Two months later, 26 year old Mayol was heading home to the Dominican Republic to vacation with her mother and two children, who had already traveled from New York two weeks earlier.
Mayol boarded the doomed American Airlines Flight 587, and the plane crashed in New York, killing all 259 people on board. A further nine people on the ground died.
Another passenger, Ruben Rodriguez, had just returned from a 6.5-month deployment. Despite surviving a war zone for more than half a year, just two days after his return he had boarded Flight 587 bound to Santo Domingo to reunite with his wife and four children.
7. Brazilian Nightclub Fire and Freak Accident
In 2013, news of the Brazilian nightclub fire that left 238 dead swept the world. It was the worst nightclub disaster in over a decade. Jessica de Lima Rohl, 21, had helped organize the party for university students at the Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria. As she was getting ready to leave her home on that fateful night, her boyfriend called her and asked her not to go.
Despite helping to organize the event, de Lima Rohl agreed to stay home. Hours later, flames ripped through the packed club after a band member lit a firework on stage which ignited the club’s foam roof.
Only five days later, Jessica traveled to the town where her boyfriend worked, and the two planned to return by car two days later. According to police, the couple had driven just a few miles when their Volkswagen Golf collided head-on with a truck, killing both of them.
6. Deadly Planes and Automobiles
In 2009, an Italian pensioner who had been on holiday with her husband in Brazil missed her flight after turning up late at Rio de Janeiro airport. Johanna Ganthaler and her husband Kurt missed Air France Flight 447, which would crash into the Atlantic four hours later and kill all 228 people aboard.
Two weeks later, Ms. Ganthaler and her husband were traveling on a road in Kufstein, Austria, when their car careened across the roadway and swerved into an oncoming truck. Johanna was killed, and her husband was seriously injured.
The surviving husband later testified that they had originally switched flights from Flight 447, and were traveling to Iberia instead, so they weren’t likely to be on that doomed Air France plane.
5. Head’s in the Wrong Place
Elevators have always been a favourite location for gruesome deaths in movies, like in Final Destination 2, when character Nora Carpenter loses her head while riding an elevator. That film mirrored a real life event that happened the same year it was released, when Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh, a surgical resident at a Houston hospital, was decapitated by a malfunctioning elevator.
The doctor’s shoulders were pinned by the doors, allowing the ceiling to surgically remove his head as the elevator continued upwards. Horrifically, the doctor’s assistant was stuck in the elevator with the decapitated head for at least an hour.
4. Great Ball of Fire
In 2007, Texas man Elzie “Bud” Warren, 70, and his daughter Phyllis Jean Ridings, 52, miraculously survived an emergency landing in a hay field after the engine of their homemade plane caught fire. The Texas natives were both members of the Experimental Aircraft Association. After the crash, Ridings remarked that, “I give all the credit to God and my father’s flying skills. He saved our lives.”
Unfortunately, God must have been preoccupied four years later, when the father and daughter duo were killed in another plane crash. They were flying an experimental plane to an air show in Temple, Texas when the cockpit began to fill with smoke. The plane crashed “in a ball of flames,” near the Conroe, Texas airport, and neither survived.
3. Daredevil Slipping
Bobby Leach was a performer with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and one of the most popular daredevils at the time. He was used to living through death-defying stunts – like when he went over the Niagara Falls in a barrel, after which he spent six months in the hospital recovering.
He also attempted to swim whirlpool rapids several times, and failed, but lived. Ironically, the death of this daring man would come from the most seemingly benign accident. In 1926, Leach slipped on an orange peel (some reports say it was a banana peel) and broke his leg. The leg became infected with gangrene, and had to be amputated. Leach died of complications two months later.
2. Tornados and Dogs
In 2013, a monster tornado swept through and destroyed the town of Moore, leaving a five-year-old boy in the care of Arkansas native Lynn Geiling. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother and father – believing him gone forever – moved to Oklahoma, 200 miles away, to gather up the pieces of their lives.
It’s no surprise that the boy was intensely traumatized from the events and from being separated from his mom and dad. One day while staying at Ms. Geiling’s house, something upset the child and he threw a temper tantrum.
Geiling tried to calm him, but the screaming upset Geiling’s dog – a 150-lb bull mastiff. The dog probably thought the boy was attacking its owner, and it lunged, puncturing the boy’s head and neck. Geiling tried to pry the dog loose, but the damage was done. The boy who had survived the tornado did not survive the dog attack.
1. Pool Disaster Prompts New Law
In Final Destination 4, hunk-stereotype Hunt Wynorski encounters a ridiculously powerful pool drain that turns his body into a puddle of blood and guts. In 2007, that same thing pretty much happened in real life.
Six-year-old Abigail Taylor was sitting on a wading pool drain at the Minneapolis Golf Club when her internal organs were partially sucked out of her body from the power of the drain. Doctors somehow managed to replace her organs, and the nation applauded this medical miracle and gave a sigh of relief.
Tragically, young Abigail died nine months later while receiving a rare triple-organ transplant to replace her small intestine, liver, and pancreas. Complications from the procedure arose and led to her death. The family filed a suit against the pool drain manufacturer and the golf club, and Abigail’s death led to new legislation to improve the safety of swimming pools.
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