When Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed and burned on landing at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013, it was a tragic day. However, it was also an amazing one. Although two teenage students were killed that day—and a third passenger died later of injuries—304 others survived, and many actually walked away from the wreckage. Plane crash survivors might seem rare, however, they’re quite common.
Far too many plane-crashes end in utter tragedy, with all aboard lost. Others, fortunately, end in amazing tales of survival. This results in some absolutely amazing stories. We’re going to give you a few of them now. Check out these amazing stories of plane crash survivors and all they went through.
15.) Worst Birthday Ever!
Mercedes Ramirez Johnson was on a flight on her 21st birthday. She was involved in a plane crash aboard American Airlines Flight 965 on December 20, 1995. The plane crashed into a mountain in Buga, Columbia. Her parents were aboard with her. Mercedes’ mother was in front of her with her father next to her nearest the wing. When the plane began going down, all she could do was pray.
When she came to, the plane had crashed and she was disoriented. A man was yelling toward her, but she couldn’t hear him. She was stuck in her seat, her leg bent. Yet she wasn’t in any pain. She crawled out with the man pulling her away. Mercedes later found out that she had a broken leg as well as injuries to her spinal cord, back, broken ribs, and some internal injuries. At the hospital, press disguised as doctors entered her room. On live television, they told her that her parents had passed in the accident.
14.) The Crash Was Only The Second Worst Part Of The Day
Rosebell Kirungi was on a normal flight on September 25, 1998. Kirungi was on a small chartered flight due to the area she was headed. Eventually, the unthinkable happened and a crash landing had to be made. The plane landed in the Rwenzori Mountains in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She mentioned later to press that the pilot lost control 45 minutes into the flight. She was worried about her daughter, only four at the time, would lose her.
Rosebell is a single mom and knew she had to make it out for her. When the plane landed, it was in pieces, but in one of the craziest tales for plane crash survivors we’ve ever heard, the crash wasn’t the worst part. Congo Rebels were out and about, and the survivors had to make it out before being found. It was raining and snowing, nothing to eat or drink. Yet she made it out.
13.) Third-Degree Burn
Plane crash survivors like Nestor Malta amaze us. He was aboard an Army Plane n 1957 when it crashed into a mountain in Cebu, Phillippines. Among those dead in the flight was the newly-elected President of the Phillippines, Ramon Magsaysay. The entire crew and 25 passengers died in the accident along with the President. Yet Nestor somehow survived.
He was not part of the Armed Forces either. Rather, he was on board as a journalist. In the accident, he ended up being badly burned with third-degree burns found all over his body. He was found by locals about 5 hours after coming to. It took 12 men, all taking turns, to carry Mata down the top of the mountain in a hammock. In total, it took 18 hours for them to do so.
12.) “Survival Of The Angels”
Jim Polehinke miraculously survived on a way no one can comprehend to this day. Her was on Comair Flight 5191 when it crashed. He actually was the co-pilot for this, which is why he has continuously mentioned to investigators that he and the pilot were to not to blame for the incident. When the plane crashed during takeoff in 2006, it shocked everyone.
Like many plane crash survivors, he does not know how he made it out alive. 49 others perished on this flight, with Jim being the only survivor. He was found inside the wreckage of the plane. His wife said to the press: “It was as if an angel had wrapped his arms around him and held him.” Jim lost his left leg in the accident, but he tries to live a happier life these days.
11.) The Miracle On The Hudson-Passenger POV
Josh Pelta survived the same flight that Sully Sullenberger saved. This was the flight that landed in the Hudson River. Josh was one of several that survived that day. When speaking to The Guardian about his horrible experience, he had this to say about what was going through his mind at the time:
“Looking out of the window, I could see us rollicking back and forth; we were so high up, the houses looked like toys and the cars like ants. But we weren’t falling, so I thought, OK, one of our engines has blown, but we have another engine, we’re returning to La Guardia, the pilot has everything under control. I didn’t realize that both engines had failed.”
10.) La Miraculée
One of the most notable plane crash survivors in recent memory is Bahia Bakari. She was found floating on some plane wreckage in water without any sort of life vest. She had been hanging on for around nine hours by the time rescuers found her. Her plane, Yemenia Flight 626 had crashed into the Indian Ocean.
Her mother was on the flight with her, but she sadly passed away in the crash along with 151 other people. Due to her survival, as she was the only one who made it from that flight, the press called her “La Miraculée.” This means The Miracle Girl in English. She was only 13 when the flight went down in 2009, so one can understand how traumatic this was for her.
9.) The 9-Year-Old Miracle
Then 9-year-old Ruben van Assouw was somehow the only survivor in an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 crash that happened in 2009. Ruben was on board with his father Patrick and mother Trudy, as well as his brother Enzo and 103 other passengers. The plane crashed just short of the runway of Libya’s Tripoli Airport.
Assouw was pulled out of the wreckage unconscious and quickly was taken to the hospital and put into surgery for his two fractured legs. He managed to make an excellent recovery and currently lives with his Aunt and Uncle in the Netherlands. He does not remember all of the accident but does recall part of it, and he feels lucky to be alive.
8.) The Rainwater Survivor
Annette Herfkens was on a small flight aboard Vietnamese Airlines Flight VN474 in 1992 when it crashed into a remote mountain range in Vietnam. Almost everyone died in the wreck, including 29 passengers and the entire crew for the plane. However, Annette managed to make it out alive. Among those dead in the accident was Herfkens’ fiance.
She said that she was not wearing her seatbelt at the time, and feels that may have saved her life. She sustained two fractured hips, a collapsed lung, broken jaw, and developed gangrene. Somehow, she managed to survive in the dangerous Vietnamese wilderness for 8 days before she was found by a local police officer. Annette later said that she managed to survive on rainwater alone.
7.) The Switched Seat That May Have Saved A Life
George Lamson, Jr. was like some plane crash survivors, but he is one of few that can call themselves the sole survivor of a major plane crash. He was on Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 on January 21, 1985. Dozens of people were on board the plane, but out of all 72 passengers aboard, 71 died in the plane crash. Among those who died was George’s father, Lamson, Sr.
Just before takeoff, he and his father switched seats. He is uncertain if that seat change saved his life but feels it may have had a role. Interestingly, he was found having been blown away from the plane, still in that very seat. Before the plane crashed, Lamson, Jr. said that he made a pact with God that if he survived he’d work to do good and help others. He has tried daily to honor that promise.
6.) 33,000 Feet From Death
Vesna Vulovic is one of the most well-known plane crash survivors ever simply due to how she survived. She was aboard the JAT Flight 367 in 1972 when it exploded just over Czechoslovakia. Vesna, a Serbian Flight Attendant for the plane, had only been on the job for 8 months. Due to the plane exploding, it ended up falling 33,000 feet out of the sky.
All 27 other people on board, including the rest of the crew, died in the crash. Due to her survival, she is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the “longest recorded fall without a parachute.” She was discovered by a local, unnamed villager. In the crash, Vesna sustained a fractured skull, broken legs, and three broken vertebrae. At the time, she ended up in paralysis and fell into a coma. She awoke with full movement but has no memory of the crash or her fall.
5.) Fall From the Sky
Juliane Koepcke is another lone survivor of a tragic crash, and her story may be even more stunning than Cichan’s. Koepcke was 17 years old on December 24, 1971, when LANSA Flight 508 was struck by lightning and disintegrated in midair over South America.
Not only did Koepcke have to survive the initial destruction, but she also had to survive the two-mile fall to the floor of the Amazonian rainforest. Amazingly, she did just that. Although 91 people died aboard the turboprop plane, Koepcke walked out of the Peruvian rainforest 11 days later.
4.) “Sole Survivor”
Sometimes, when a plane crashes, the amazing thing is that anyone survives at all. And when Northwest Airlines Flight 255 crashed and burned on takeoff on August 16, 1987, a little girl became one of the lucky ones. Although 154 passengers and two on-ground bystanders were killed, 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan was thrown clear of the inferno.
Cichan lost her father, brother, and mother—who was later credited with giving her life to shield her daughter. Cichan survived burns and multiple bone fractures and grew up to marry. He even appeared in a documentary on plane crash survivors.
3.) The Sioux City Tumble
There are times when a pilot cannot prevent a tragedy, but his skill prevents an even greater one from taking place. Such was the case on July 19, 1989, when United Flight 232 was forced into an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa. Although Captain Alfred C. Haynes and his crew could not land the plane smoothly, they did everything in their power to prevent a disaster.
As a result, although the plane was shredded in what was really a controlled crash landing, Haynes and company – along with the emergency responders—were credited with saving lives, not losing them. Of the 296 passengers aboard, 184 lived.
2.) The Miracle on the Hudson
Airplane pilots need nerves of steel. Fortunately, they seldom need to display them for the world. When Chesley Sullenberger was put to the test aboard US Airways Flight 1549, however, he passed with “flying” colors. Sullenberger’s plane hit a flock of birds during takeoff on January 15, 2009, and lost both engines.
“Sully” quickly figured out he couldn’t reach any area airports and had to ditch in the Hudson River. This is not nearly as easy or as simple as it sounds. But, not only did Sullenberger land safely, he stayed aboard until the last passenger was off the sinking jet. All 155 people on the flight survived what was promptly dubbed the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
When an Uruguayan Air Force flight carrying an amateur rugby team went down in the Andes Mountains on October 13, 1972, it was just the first chapter in a story that eventually led to a hit book and movie. The title of those works is “Alive,” which tells you that, for some of the passengers at least, it was a story with a happy ending.
Although struck by an avalanche that killed some of the initial survivors, and forced to resort to cannibalism, a total of 16 survivors were saved. This ended up happening after two of them made a 10-day, 40-mile trek through the mountains to safety. This is absolutely insane, right? Sometimes plane crash survivors have to do some crazy things to make it out alive.