Top 10 People Who Survived Nightmare Situations



Top 10 People Who Survived Nightmare Situations

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These lucky people went through hell and survived. For this list, we'll be looking at people who survived unimaginably terrifying and seemingly fatal events. Our countdown includes Aron Ralston, Harrison Okene, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, and more!

Top 10 People Who Survived the Impossible

Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 People Who Survived the Impossible.

For this list, we’ll be looking at people who survived unimaginably terrifying and seemingly fatal events.

Which of these stories do you find the most insane? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Aron Ralston

Nowadays, everyone knows about Ralston’s incredible story through Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours.” In April of 2003, Ralston was hiking alone in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon when a horrible accident left his arm pinned by an 800-pound boulder. Ralston spent five days inside the cramped slot canyon and fully believed that he would die. By the end of the fifth day, he had videotaped goodbye messages for his family and carved his name, date of birth, and estimated date of death into the wall. Following a hallucination in which he saw himself with a young child, Ralston did the impossible and amputated his own arm with a cheap multi-tool. It’s a thrilling survival story, a brilliant showcase of both human ingenuity and perseverance.

#9: Chris Gursky

If there’s one thing to take away from this story, it’s this - remember to do your pull-ups. While vacationing in Switzerland, Chris Gursky decided to do a little hang gliding. Unfortunately, the pilot forgot to attach the safety harness, and Gursky was quite literally forced to hang on for dear life. For over two minutes, Gursky was left dangling from the hang glider hundreds of feet above the ground, his grip strength being the only thing saving him from the trees below. Luckily, Gursky made it back down alive, though he did break his wrist in the rough landing. The terrifying ordeal didn’t scare Gursky away from hang gliding, and he never pursued legal action against the company, calling the pilot “a pretty stand up guy.”

#8: Mauro Prosperi

In 1994, an Italian pentathlete, Mauro Prosperi decided to participate in the Marathon des Sables, an ultramarathon spanning over 150 miles of the Sahara Desert. Four days into the race, Prosperi got lost in a violent sandstorm and eventually took shelter inside an abandoned shrine. While there, he hydrated himself by sucking on wet wipes and drinking blood from the bats he managed to catch and kill. He later attempted to end his own life, but this failed and he continued searching for rescue. Prosperi eventually came across goat droppings in the desert and followed them to a local camp populated by Tuareg nomads. He was then taken to the hospital, having survived a week and a half alone in the barren desert.

#7: Ludger Sylbaris

Known as “The Paris of the Caribbean,” Saint-Pierre, Martinique was decimated by the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902. A pyroclastic flow struck at 8:02 AM on May 8, destroying the entire city and leaving very few survivors. One was Ludger Sylbaris. The night before the eruption, Sylbaris was thrown in jail after a physical altercation. He was placed in a cell which just so happened to be the safest location in the city thanks to its stone walls, poor ventilation, and underground location. Sylbaris survived the flow but was badly burned from the hot air entering through the small grate. He later toured with Barnum & Bailey’s circus, being touted as The Man Who Lived Through Doomsday.

#6: Vesna Vulović

Many people are afraid of heights, but this takes things to a whole other level. Vesna Vulović was working as a flight attendant when JAT Flight 367 was bombed over Germany in 1972. Everyone else on board was blown out of the aircraft from the depressurization, but Vulović proved incredibly lucky when she was pinned in the fuselage by a food cart. She then rode the fuselage 33,000 feet to the ground, where its impact was cushioned by tall trees and deep snow. Her injuries were extensive, but Vulović survived after being found by a local villager. She suffered amnesia and was briefly paralyzed from the waist down, but Vulović eventually recovered, albeit with a twisted spine and a limp.

#5: Anna Bågenholm

On May 20, 1999, Anna Bågenholm was skiing with work colleagues when she fell into a frozen river, trapping her head and torso under roughly eight inches of ice. Bågenholm’s colleagues attempted to free her to no avail. Luckily, Bågenholm was able to find an air pocket, but forty minutes in the freezing water led to cardiac arrest. She was eventually freed by a rescue team and taken to the hospital with a body temperature of 56.7 °F, which is the lowest ever recorded in a case of accidental hypothermia. Bågenholm began showing signs of life following extensive surgery and later spent months recuperating in the hospital. She has since made a full recovery, minus some nerve damage in her hands and feet.

#4: Harrison Okene

A Nigerian chef, Harrison Okene, was working on a tugboat as it was stabilizing an oil tanker in the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the boat encountered some violent waves and capsized, sending it 100 feet to the ocean floor. While most of the crew perished in the accident, Okene was left alive and made his way to the engineer’s office in complete darkness. The office was about four feet in height and contained an air pocket that allowed Okene to breathe. He then fashioned a makeshift buoy out of a mattress and remained in the pitch-black air pocket for over sixty hours. He was eventually rescued by a team of divers who had been sent to retrieve the bodies. Imagine their surprise.

#3: Miracle of the Andes Survivors

One of the most spectacular survival stories of all time, this event has been immortalized in both literature and film. On Friday October 13, 1972, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the Andes, leaving thirty-four survivors stranded on a freezing mountain. Over the next seventy-two days, the survivors faced countless hardships. Many suffered from exposure and critical injuries sustained in the crash, and a fatal avalanche struck the area seventeen days after the accident. All suffered from debilitating hunger, resulting in the unthinkable becoming reality. Without the hope of rescue, two survivors climbed a 15,000-foot peak without any climbing gear and hiked their way into Chile, where they eventually found help. Of the thirty-four initial survivors, only sixteen made it home.

#2: Louis Zamperini & Russell Phillips

War is hell for everyone, but these men faced a particular kind of hell. While conducting a rescue mission south of Oahu, their B-24 experienced mechanical failure and crashed into the ocean. Of the eleven people on board, only three survived. While aboard the life raft, the men had to contend with hunger and dehydration, shark attacks, dangerous storms, and even Japanese bombers attempting to shoot them. They subsisted on rainwater and fish. The third man, Francis McNamara, eventually died, but Zamperini and Phillips made it to the Marshall Islands after forty-seven days at sea. However, they were caught by the Japanese held as prisoners of war, during which time they were frequently beaten. Against all odds, they survived, and were released once the war concluded.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Anatoli Bugorski
The Russian Physicist Survived a 300,000 Roentgens Proton Beam to the Head
Anatoli Bugorski

Violet Jessop (AKA Miss Unsinkable)
This Stewardess Survived Two Sinkings, Including the Titanic

Ralph Flores & Helen Klaben
Both Survived 49 Days in Northern Canada Following a Plane Crash

Roy Sullivan
The American Park Ranger Survived Seven Lightning Strikes

#1: Tsutomu Yamaguchi

A Japanese marine engineer, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima on business when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city on August 6, 1945. Yamaguchi witnessed the explosion and was left temporarily blind. He also suffered from radiation burns and ruptured eardrums. Astoundingly, he returned home and reported to work three days later - work and home being in Nagasaki. While discussing the Hiroshima bombing with his supervisor, the US bombed Nagasaki too. Unlike his experience in Hiroshima, Yamaguchi was left uninjured, despite being less than two miles from ground zero. Although he suffered radiation-inflicted ailments later in life, Yamaguchi lived to be ninety-three and passed away in 2010.