There is nothing as disheartening as seeing a loved one moments before they pass away. Their memory haunts you forever as do those last few minutes you had with them. Though not as tragic as the death of a loved one, the death of a known public figure sometimes has the same chilling effects. Many of us live through the eyes of these public figures whether in a positive or negative light, and once they are gone somehow a void is created. Even if that figure is not known, pictures of individuals who perished during a disaster always leaves a chill down your spine as it helps you think about the unimaginable. Perhaps it’s because we all see a little of ourselves in others, thinking if this can happen to us.
The article contains images from a variety of personalities from those that died tragically young, to those that could not take back the one dumb moment, that many of us have been guilty of. Some people are just downright cruel and seeing them in their final moments can elicit emotions of joy in some, and pain in others. Many were in the wrong place at the wrong time not knowing what awaited them moments later. Some passed away as an indirect result of the very people that took these photos which we all clamor to see. The biggest effect from these photos is the notion that one minute you’re here and the next minute you can instantly be gone.
17. John and Jackie Knill
Although not famous people before their death, the last photo this couple ever took is bone chilling. On January 13, 2005, the bodies of this Canadian couple were discovered on a Thailand beach resort. Their camera was discovered a few weeks later, by a Seattle based relief worker. What you see here is a photo of the famed Tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26, 2004, wiping out everything and everyone in its path. Just imagine what it must have felt like for them to see waves appearing to be at least five times the height of the average human rushing at them, thinking that like all waves they will stop before hitting the shore line, then after a few seconds realizing what is about to happen. The camera contained their last vacation photos. Scrolling through each picture one can see the wave getting closer and closer to shore. The last of these pictures was shot just around 8.30 am on December 26. The relief worker took the time to track down the family and give them these last photos.
16. Lady Diana
In 2007, an inquest into Lady Diana’s death provided a set of the last photos taken of the famed princess moments before her death. In an irony not lost on anyone this photo was taken by the paparazzi chasing the car down for a picture. Ultimately to avoid these photographers, the driver lost control of the car seconds after this picture was taken, leading to the death of 3 of the 4 passengers, with the only survivor being Dodi Fayed’s bodyguard in the front passenger seat. In the photo one can see the four passengers leaving the Ritz Paris Hotel around 12:20 am, on August 31, 1997. Henri Paul a driver from the hotel is seen on the right, and Dodi Fayed’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones in the passenger seat. In the rear seat is Princess Diana looking back with her companion Dodi Fayed sitting next to her. The Mercedes then entered the Place de l’Alma underpass at a speed of over 100 km/h on city streets. The driver lost control of the car before colliding head-on with one of the pillars in the tunnel. Dodi Fayed and the driver both died instantly. Diana was critically injured but died later that morning in the hospital. Amazingly after the crash, emergency teams heard Lady Diana uttering the words “leave me alone”, as photographers were still taking pictures of the victims after the crash.
15. Michael Jackson
On June 25, 2009, probably the most popular musician of our time was seen here being rushed to the hospital after he suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing. He died at the hospital about an hour after this picture was taken. What is even more amazing is that TMZ was the first organization to be on the scene. Considering how quickly the events unfolded, how is it possible to find out what is going on and to be there faster than the ambulances? The legend had 13 Grammy awards and sold over 750 million records. An amount so staggering, it is at least 15 times higher than even today’s mega pop stars. Perhaps it is this level of success that had the media portraying him as a freak and an outsider. Despite his image, the man was a philanthropist who supported over 39 charities. Below is a video clip of his last performance, two days before his death. It’s unfortunate that we can never see him perform again.
14. John Lennon
John Lennon, a founding member of the Beatles, was one of the most influential people in the 20th century, both for his music and his ideals. In a bitter twist of irony, the last known picture of John above shows him signing an autograph for someone with Mark David Chapman in the background. Eerily it was Chapman that riddled Lennon with 4 bullets in the back, some time later on December 8, 1980 at the entrance of the Dakota in New York City. He may be dead but the legend will live on in immortality through his music.
13. Vladimir Lenin
This image of the man that revolutionized both Russia and much of the world was taken in Gorki, after May 15th, 1923. He had three strokes at this point and was completely mute. Seeing the dark and cold stare of a dying man who ultimately became the founder of an evil institution and became evil himself, is both chilling and disturbing. His legacy was built around wiping the world of religion, an institution he felt was impoverishing and destroying the world, only to prove the theory that another religious man brought forth; that absolute power corrupts absolutely no matter whose hands it’s in.
12. Steve Jobs
The picture above shows the Apple Computer co-founder being helped into a car by a friend outside his home in California, on August 26, 2011. He died on October 5th, 2011 from the effects of pancreatic cancer, a disease that he was diagnosed with eight years earlier. The thought of such a great businessman looking so frail at the end of life is almost disheartening. Although the final words he told his family before dying were more uplifting; “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW”.
11. Robin Williams
The man that entertained so many of us through his marvelous comedic and dramatic touch, was a tortured soul himself prior to taking his own life in August 2014. The picture above of a smiling Robin Williams with monkey, Crystal, was taken a few days before his death. His final message for his daughter on Twitter: “Happy Birthday to Ms. Zelda Rae Williams! Quarter of a century old today, but always my baby girl. Happy Birthday @zeldawilliams Love you!”. It is disheartening to know how someone with all of that around him can feel that much pain. Of all the preordained behaviors that people are born with, it is this one that people scorn the most, even though it has no cure and really can’t be controlled with even the best of medicines, forcing those scorned and mocked to live with an unbearable amount of hurt. Hopefully this one lost soul will change people’s attitudes and save lives. No matter how one feels about his death, we can all remember him through his comedy acts like the one below:
10. Bob Marley
The picture above depicts the 36 year old cultural icon and musician with his wife receiving cancer treatment in Germany. He would pass away on May 11, 1981, after landing in Miami coming home to Jamaica from Germany. It is hard to believe judging from his frailty in the picture that just a year earlier he was performing in stadiums with crowds approaching 100,000 people. Four years prior to his death he was diagnosed with a type of malignant melanoma under the nail of a toe, a symptom of an earlier cancer he had. Refusing to take his Doctor’s treatment citing religious beliefs, he held on for four more years.
9. Richard Pryor
The man deemed by Comedy Central as the greatest stand-up comedian of all time, passed away by a heart attack at the young age of 65 on December 10th, 2005. He was still performing to sold out crowds with his last public appearance being on July of 2005, at an event called Richard Pryor at the Helm of Comedy. The picture above shows Richard posing with Eddie Griffin shortly before his death. His widow Jennifer was quoted as saying, “At the end, there was a smile on his face.” See the clip below to put a smile on yours.
8. Ryan Dunn
The stunt man and Jackass star passed away at the young age of 34, on June 20, 2011 in the same dare devilish manner he lived his life. The picture above was Tweeted just hours before his death. It shows him drinking with his friends. Later with a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit and while driving negligently at over 130 mph in a 55 mph zone, he would crash his car into a tree killing both himself and his passenger, Zachary Hartwell. Two lives gone in a blink of an eye for something that could have been avoided.
7. James Gandolfini
The man best known for his portrayal of the psychopathic crime boss on the Sopranos was just the opposite in real life. James died of a heart attack on June 19, 2013, while vacationing with his family in Rome. The last photo taken of him, shown above, shows him enjoying a relaxing evening enjoying a meal at the Sabatini restaurant off Rome’s Piazza Santa Maria. One day later with no prior warning, he passed away.
6. Paul Walker
Another man whose death mirrored the image most of us had of him. His most iconic role was as the FBI agent turned street racer turned vigilante in the Fast of Furious franchise. In the picture above, Paul’s window is rolled down as he is leaving in the exotic sports car that would ultimately kill him on November 30, 2013. Minutes later, the driver, Roger Rodas would lose control of the car and crash into a light pole and a tree. The coroner reported that both men died within seconds of the crash. Speed was a factor in the accident.
5. Joan Rivers
On September 4th, 2013, Joan Rivers passed away at the age of 81, from complications from a minor throat procedure undergone a week earlier. The night before her surgery she can be seen above enjoying a night out not knowing what was waiting for her one day later. Unlike many people on this list, she did not pass away before her time, but it is always shocking when such a small thing can lead to someone’s death. She still kept performing even in her old age. You can see one of her performances from 2009 at the age of 77, from an annual comedy festival in Montreal, Canada.
4. Whitney Houston
On February 11, 2012, Whitney Houston can be seen above leaving the Tru Hollywood Club after a night of partying. Later in her hotel room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, she was found underwater and unconscious in her bathtub surrounded by various bottles of prescription drugs. Someone’s loss is always someone else’s gain, as room 434, where she died, is continuously booked as a result of her death. Amazingly enough the Grammy awards party where she was slated to perform still went on.
3. Space Shuttle Challenger Crew
On January 28th, 1986, seven astronauts can be seen here boarding the Space Shuttle that a mere 73 seconds later would fall into the sea taking the lives of all seven people and showing that no matter how many billions of dollars you pour into something, scientists are not infallible as they cannot always make a perfect device. This is one of those events where years later, people will tell you exactly where they were when they saw the images on TV. Contrary to myth, the challenger did not blow up. The external fuel tank had collapsed, releasing gases that ignited when mixed together creating a giant fire ball. The space shuttle was still intact and its passengers still alive at this point. However the shuttle did break apart with all of its parts falling into the sea and the crew along with them.
2. Leonard Nimoy
One of those actors that one can never separate from his most iconic role, Leonard Nimoy passed away earlier this year at the age of 83. Leonard had been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition he attributed to a smoking addiction he had given up about 30 years earlier. In this picture, he is seen being taken to the UCLA Medical center for chest pains, where he later died. Leonard had been in and out of hospitals frequently in the previous months which might explain why he had the time to pack a bag, probably thinking that this was just another overnight stay.
1. Nicolae Ceausescu
By far the most disturbing photo on this list, showing how the oppressed can be equally as cruel when they ascend to power. The above picture shows Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife being executed via a firing squad on Dec 25, 1989, by soldiers after being overthrown. An oppressive dictator himself as most dictators are, he was Romania’s last Communist head of state from 1967 to 1989. I guess this is what happens when people can’t get you out via general elections.