Humans can survive some pretty miraculous stuff, none more amazing than what we routinely put our bodies through. The daily punishment of athletics and the toxic chemicals we imbue are damaging enough, but they pale in comparison to life-altering accidents such as car crashes, and of course genetic defects and random diseases. Through modern science, pure luck or some guardian angel humans have managed to survive some pretty improbable situations. Some have taken this good fortune to the extreme. Here are ten of the most miraculous survivors who probably shouldn’t be alive today.
10) Sharon Weron — Survived Tornado
On July 1st, 1955 nine-year-old Sharon Weron was riding her horse home in Bowdle, South Dakota when a fierce tornado struck. Sharon tried to outrun the tornado and reach the house, while her mother was riding behind her in a car, watching the events unfold. The tornado consumed Sharon and her horse and carried them over 1,000 feet through the air, spinning them in a cyclone full of debris. She sailed over three fences and was deposited on the grass, where she clung on desperately until the tornado passed. When it was over Sharon was surprisingly unhurt, save for some bumps and bruises. She had used her leather jacket to protect her head from debris – and it might have saved her life. And her horse? It too survived completely unharmed.
9) Aron Ralston — Amputated His Own Arm
In what’s become a rather famous story told in both book and then on film, Aron Ralston did the unthinkable when he amputated his own arm in order to save his life. While climbing alone in Utah, Ralston fell and his arm was pinned under an eight-hundred pound boulder. He was low on food and water and the likelihood of anyone finding him before he starved to death was slim at best. So Ralston did what anyone of us would do – and by that I mean what none of us would even consider. He broke his own arm then sawed it off with a dull pocket knife. Afterwards he rappelled down a 65-foot wall and then walked away to freedom. Luckily he was discovered by a group of hikers and saved. Today Ralston lives on as a motivational speaker. He also still climbs.
8) Ricky Megee — Survived 3 Months in the Outback
The last thing Ricky Megee claimed he remembered was driving through the Australian Outback. So it must have come as something of a shock to him when he awoke half-buried in the desert with a pack of dingos trying to eat him. Ricky said he was drugged by a hitchhiker at one point, but he also mentioned that his car had broken down. While the origins of his situation might have been dubious at best, the sad reality was that Ricky was unlikely to survive his mysterious predicament. But survive he did. Ricky struggled for life for ten days before stumbling onto a small patch of damned-up water and made himself a camp. There he survived for three months eating leeches, grasshoppers and frogs. Luckily some passing farmers found poor Ricky and returned him to civilization. He’d lost an astonishing amount of weight but survived his ordeal in the Outback.
7) Harrison Okene — Survived 62 Hours Underwater
On May 26th, 2013 Harrison Okene, a cook aboard a service tugboat, was caught inside the ship as it capsized from an ocean swell. He and his crewmates were dragged 100-feet below the surface of the ocean to die. The quick-thinking Okene grabbed a few items (some tools, soda, and a light) and somehow managed to make it to a stable pocket of air. There he improvised and used some mattresses to keep afloat and relatively dry, as freezing was a real possibility and Harrison was clothed in only his boxer shorts. Despite the frigid depths, lack of oxygen, and the real possibility of dying from CO2 poisoning, Harrison managed to survive an amazing 62 hours. When he was found by divers he was in miraculously good condition after having survived an atmosphere in which divers could only remain for 20 minutes at a time.
6) Marina Chapman — Was Raised By Monkeys
Marina Chapman was a four-year-old kidnapping victim – or should have been. During her ordeal she was somehow left abandoned in the Colombian jungle all alone. We can’t begin to estimate the odds of a random four-year-old surviving in a hostile jungle environment, but Marina did. She was adopted by a group of carablanca monkeys and was cared for by them. She also became an expert at climbing trees and later stealing from local villagers in order to feed herself. When she was finally re-introduced into society her ordeal was far from over. At one point she formed a band of child thieves, was adopted by abusive parents and then escaped and was again later adopted by another family. Eventually Marina returned to the “real” world and became a productive member of society – despite the long odds.
5) Coolidge Winesett — Spent 3 Days Under Outhouse
Poor Coolidge Winestt suffered a fate none of us would wish on our worst enemy – he fell through a rotting outhouse in his yard into a pool of offal and feces with no hope of rescue in sight. Winesett had previously lost one leg and the use of his right arm to a stroke and there was no way he could escape the wretched confinement. The foul cavity was filled with rats, spiders and snakes – and of course years of human waste. It was a miserable way to die. After three torturous days Winesett’s mail carrier became concerned when his mail wasn’t picked up and investigated and found Winesett in the outhouse.
4) Lucio Rendon, Salvador Ordonez, and Jesus Eduardo Vidana — Stranded At Sea For 9 Months
Here’s a lesson for all you youngsters out there; if you’re planning on going shark hunting in the Pacific Ocean it’s probably a good idea to bring extra fuel, or at the very least a radio, with you. It’s a lesson that these three Mexican fisherman should have heeded when they set out to hunt sharks in a shabby 28-foot boat in October of 2005. After running out of fuel they were caught up in an ocean current and sucked out into the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They had no food, no water and basically no hope of survival. Using a bit of ingenuity they rigged up a makeshift sail and attempted to sail forward to freedom. They were rained on frequently enough to provide water and they ate turtles and fish to survive. Inexplicably, they survived this way for nine gruelling months on the high seas. A fishing boat eventually found them and they were returned home – a little worse for wear from their ordeal but largely alive.
3) Norman Ollestad Jr. — Survived Plane Crash On Frozen Mountainside
Norman Ollestad Jr. grew up skiing, surfing and doing all manner of extreme activities from the time he was born. His father was something of an extremist himself and he taught his child well. Sadly, on February 19th, 1979 a small plane carrying Norman Sr., Sandra (Norman Sr.’s girlfriend), Norman Jr. and a pilot crashed on Big Bear Mountain, killing Norman Sr. and the pilot instantly and leaving Norman Jr. and a wounded Sandra alone on a frigid mountainside in the middle of a blizzard. Norman Jr. was 11 years old and stuck with a wounded adult woman, who the child was dragging and carrying along as best he could. Unfortunately, Sandra fell into a crevice and died from the fall. We can’t imagine the trauma Norman suffered at the sight of it, but it didn’t deter his will to live. Without even a pair of gloves Norman forged his own ski poles from sticks and skied down the mountain on his shoes. It took him nine hours but he reached the bottom in relatively good shape – all things considered.
2) Mauro Prosperi — Survived 5 Days in Sahara Desert
Mauro Prosperi was an Italian policeman and an Olympic athlete who decided to compete in the world’s most gruelling marathon – a six-day, 156 mile trek across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Mauro was doing well and four days into the race he was solidly in seventh place when disaster struck. A massive sandstorm arose. Runners were supposed to wait the storm out but Prosperi decided to press on. Six-hours later he realized he’d veered off the trail and was absolutely lost in the Sahara Desert. Prosperi discovered an isolated shrine and even attempted suicide, but he was so dehydrated his blood clotted too quickly and despite slitting his own wrists, he only passed out. After waking, Mauro pressed on into the desert where he survived for five days by eating scorpions and lizards. Mauro eventually stumbled upon some nomads who informed him he was in Algeria – 130 miles off course.
1) Juliane Koepcke — Survived 10,000 Foot Plane Crash
Christmas miracles apparently are real. At least they were for Juilane Koepcke. While travelling via airplane on Christmas Day in 1971, Juilane’s plane was struck by lightning and exploded in mid-air. Unfortunately, Juilane’s mother and 90 other people died in the accident, but somehow Juilane survived a 10,000-foot fall into the Peruvian jungle while still strapped into her seat – without a parachute. Her only injuries were a broken collarbone, a cut on her arm and a swollen eye. Nearly blind after losing her glasses, Juilane continued to defy the odds by living off food from the wreckage and following a river downstream for nine days until she found a canoe and eventually reached a lumber yard and civilization.
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