The world is filled with danger; death can strike at any time. Murder, war, accidents and disasters all remain constant reminders that the world is not quite as safe as we want to believe it is when we tuck ourselves into bed at night. A death, whether individual or on a larger scale, is grim enough evidence that we’re here until we’re not, but when said deaths are caught on film, the level of tragedy increases as grief is now committed to celluloid forever. Whether caught on camera by news media, random bystanders or both, these shocking deaths not only remind us of our own mortality, but also of the darker side of our psyche, as no matter how appalled we may be at the idea of watching, like witnessing a train wreck, we feel compelled to look.
8. Ramstein Air Show Disaster
The Ramstein air show disaster is an event in German history that is so infamous it even prompted popular German industrial metal band Rammstein to name themselves in part after it. Given how spectacular the disaster was, it’s no surprise. Held at the U.S. air base in West Germany, on August 28, 1988, over 300,000 people attended the annual air show. During the show, a mid-air collision occurred involving three Italian fighter jets. After one of the aircraft collided with the two other jets, the plane crashed nose first into the runway, breaking apart. The fuselage and ensuing fireball of jet fuel hurled itself toward the spectators area, wiping out a part of the crowd before finally coming rest, ending its path of destruction. Sadly, the crash site was considered to be the best seats in the house. All told, 67 spectators and three pilots died and 346 other people sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire. Amidst the chaos a large amount of video was taken of the accident, forever encapsulating the horrors of that tragic day.
7. Sknyliv Air Show Disaster
Horrifically enough, the Ramstein Air Show was only the second most deadly air show disaster in history. The Sknyliv Air Show Disaster claims that dubious title. On July 27, 2002, at what was to be a glorious event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Ukrainian Air Force’s 14th Air Corps, over 10,000 spectators gathered to watch an air show at the Sknyliv airfield just outside Lviv, Ukraine. What ensued was the worst air show accident in history. During a stunt, a Ukrainian Air Force fighter jet lost control and nose-dived straight into the crowd of horrified onlookers. In total 77 people were killed including 19 children. Over 543 other spectators were injured, 100 of them needing medical treatment for serious head injuries, burns and bone fractures. The downed plane, flown by two experienced pilots, both of whom were able to eject and survive, hadn’t a clue what their flight path was; during the investigation afterwards, the flight data recorder revealed one pilot ask, “where are our spectators?” Unfortunately, with the amount of video recorded at the event, anyone watching the footage can clearly see both the spectators on the ground, and the oblivious pilots’ failure to notice them.
6. John Spooner Murdering Darius Simmons
Loss of life is tragic, regardless of the circumstances. It is one thing when accidents happen, or when casualties are incurred during horrific disasters like the previous two entries; murder is a wholly different animal. Being caught murdering someone on tape with your own surveillance equipment is just plain idiotic. But that’s what happened in Milwaukee in May of 2012 when 76-year-old John Spooner gunned down his 13-year-old neighbor Darius Simmons on the sidewalk in front of the victim’s home. According to Spooner, apparently Simmons was no angel himself and the 76-year-old initially installed the security camera to monitor his home for burglaries after Simmons had allegedly broken into Spooner’s home numerous times and stolen his guns. Certainly not at all condonable whatsoever, but fatally shooting a 13-year-old in broad daylight to teach him a lesson not to steal takes vigilante justice to the extreme. There are police forces to report crimes to for a reason. Watching Spooner confront the unarmed Simmons on the sidewalk and gun him down is indeed quite shocking, and in Spooner’s case legally damning beyond respite. Indeed, in the prosecutor’s own words; “the best piece of evidence you’re going to see is the murder. You’re going to actually see what the murder looks like in this case.” No defense could argue that one.
5. Budd Dwyer Suicide
One of the most talked about and readily available videos of death caught on camera, Budd Dwyer’s suicide has been the subject of everything from books to TV parodies and Internet memes. A former politician in Pennsylvania, Dwyer was a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate and served as the 30th Treasurer of Pennsylvania. In 1986, Dwyer was convicted of receiving bribes, and gross mismanagement of State funds. During his entire trial and even after his conviction, Dwyer maintained that he was innocent of the charges against him and that he had been framed. In the end however, whether Dwyer was indeed innocent and framed or guilty of the crimes didn’t matter; on January 22, 1987, in a shocking display of hubris, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the mouth during a televised press conference at his office in Harrisburg. Statement made, one way or the other.
4. Michael Marin Suicide
The deep seeded fear of jail time must really be what pushes white-collar criminals over the edge and provokes them to do completely insane things. Take Michael Marin for example. A wealthy father of four and grandfather of two, Marin attended Yale Law School and was an ex-Wall Street trader who had climbed Mount Everest and enjoyed the finer things in life, like collecting art from Picasso. He also lived well above his means, and after trying to auction off a $3.5 million Phoenix mansion that had left him seriously in debt, police contended that Marin burned the mansion to the ground, while still inside, to collect the insurance money. Found guilty of the crime, and with a 16-year prison sentence awaiting him, after the verdict was read out live on national television, Marin appears to slip something in his mouth. He then takes a drink of water, and within minutes has trouble breathing and collapses. Toxicology reports show that Marin in fact committed suicide by cyanide on live national television. Whether driven to protest his innocence, or from fear of prison, we’ll never know.
3. Station Nightclub Fire
Rock and roll is known for its theatrics and pyrotechnics play heavily into the atmosphere of the show; but controlled fire and explosions are best suited for a large arena, or an outdoor venue, not a tiny nightclub in Rhode Island. 80s glam metal had its heyday in… the 80s, but clearly the band Great White didn’t get the memo. On February 20, 2003, during the beginning of Great White’s first song as the headlining band, illegal pyrotechnics set off by their manager set fire to foam on both sides of the band’s drummer, catching the backdrop behind him and reaching the ceiling in seconds. At first the crowd thought the flames were part of the act, but quickly and tragically realized they were uncontrolled. What followed was a massive panic to get out of the small club, causing a wave of terrified people all heading towards the front exit of the club. All told, the stage was ablaze in about a minute, resulting in the loss of Great While lead guitarist Ty Longley’s life, and the entire club was completely engulfed in flames in 5 minutes, killing 100 people. The entire tragedy was caught on tape by WPRI-TV of Providence, revealing how terrifying the ordeal was. While no real compensation can bring a loved one back, As of 2008, almost $175 million has been offered to the families of the victims of the fire by the various defendants of the lawsuit that ensued.
2. John F. Kennedy Assassination
Unquestionably one of the most shocking events in American history, the John F. Kennedy assassination is also one of the most shocking deaths ever caught on film. On November 22, 1963, a day that will live in infamy forever, John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline traveled to Dallas, Texas to meet with members of the Democratic Party. While traveling through the city, the Presidential motorcade entered the West End district of Dealey Plaza. It was there that President Kennedy was shot once in the upper back, and then, a mere seconds later shot a second time in the side of the head where he died almost instantly. The inadvertent filming of the assassination by Kennedy admirer and bystander Abraham Zapruder is one of the most watched pieces of film in history. The tape was not shown to the American pubic until over a decade later on the ABC late-night show Good Night America, but the assassination and the film which caught it had far reaching consequences for the United States, and the way in which the Secret Service protects its Presidents immediately. The JFK assassination remains one of the most shocking deaths caught on film to this day; the last assassination of an American President.
1. The World Trade Center
Shocking. Abhorrent. Horrifying. There aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe the sheer evil perpetrated by the al-Qaeda terrorists that systematically planned and carried out the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Hijacking and flying jumbo passenger jets into the World Trade Center that sunny September morning left the world not only aghast, but also utterly terrified. As terrifying as even the mere idea that America could be attacked was, let alone on such a large scale, it was made all the more terrifying by the fact that the world watched it all unfold live on television, 24/7. From the second plane hitting the tower, to the innocent civilians jumping to their deaths to escape the fire and smoke billowing from it, and finally, when both towers collapsed into rubble in downtown New York City, a camera was fixed on the location at all times. News broadcasters and home videos all caught the immense tragedy of that day. Along with the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, and the plane that crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania, nearly 3,000 lives were lost that day. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attack videos remain the most shocking videos to capture such destruction of all time. The video footage that captured the crimes against America still serves, over a decade later, as a testament of the heroes that lost their lives that day, and how starkly the world changed from then onwards.