One of the most harrowing things that can happen to someone is to be the sole survivor of a horrible accident or massacre. The emotional toll of being a lone survivor weighs heavily on anyone who has ever seen their entire family or group of close friends perish in an instant. The lone survivor is a modern true-crime trope, and for good reason; it’s genuinely miraculous when someone manages to live through a disaster, be it personal, environmental, or otherwise.
As you’ll come to see, there is no such thing as normal survivor stories. Everyone who has lived through a tragedy has a different story; some of them have lived through an attempted murder, and others have watched entire camps of people die in front of them. In many aspects, the life of a survivor is unenviable, to say the least.
Imagine being the only person left alive after a plane crash. At first you would probably feel gracious for being lucky enough to live through such a nightmare, but then the survivor’s guilt would set in, and that’s when things get dark. All of the stories you’re about to read are full of strong people who survived horrific tragedies, some political, and some personal. Keep reading to find out about the most wild sole survivor stories where people lived through the unthinkable.
In June 2014, a small plane crashed on a routine trip across the Congo. The pilot and 19 passengers all died, leaving only one survivor to tell his unbelievable story. Apparently, a fellow passenger had smuggled a live crocodile onto the flight in his luggage, and when the crocodile escaped, the loose reptile caused a panic. Crew and passengers stampeded to the front of the airplane, dangerously shifting the plane's weight and throwing it off balance, leading to the fatal crash.
In 2011, Hattie Stretz was waiting to get her nails done at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, CA, when the building became the site to a devastating shooting. According to ABC News, Scott Dekraai decided to slay his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, because of their aggressive child custody battle, and attacked the salon she was at. After Dekraai slayed Fournier, he continued firing and gunned down more than seven people.
Five years after the attack, Stretz gave her first interview. She said, "The only noise that I can remember from that day is the pop, pop, pop, pop." Even though Stretz survived, that doesn't mean she didn't take a hit. "I had this searing pain in my heart, and I looked down at my arm and it was just hanging in shreds." When she was shot, a bullet entered her arm and then went through her left breast.
In the 1970s, Ines Etienne Romeu lived through the Brazilian military's House of Death, a torture prison in Petropolis, near Rio de Janeiro. According to retired lieutenant colonel Paulo Malhães, the casa de morte was referred to as a "house of convenience" to pressure prisoners into becoming informants. The main method used to "convince" prisoners was torture, but in a few cases, prisoners were offered money to drop a dime on their friends and family.
Malhães noted Romeu's release from the prison was an accident, and that she had tricked her captors into believing she had accepted their programming. Of course, this came after the military attempted to make her throw herself under a car to prove that she was loyal to their cause. According to the BBC, more than 400 people "disappeared" in Brazil between 1964 and 1985.
Enietra Washington, the only survivor of Los Angeles serial killer Lonnie David Franklin Jr., AKA the Grim Sleeper, lived through the slayer's brutal attack when he shot her in her chest as she rode in the passenger seat of his Pinto. Almost three decades after the affront, Washington took the stand in Franklin's trial and explained how after shooting her he forced himself on her while taking photos of her.
When she tried to escape him, he got tired of fighting with her and pushed Washington out of his car. On the stand, Washington claimed she lost her driver's license in Franklin's car, and a year later, a man she believes was her attacker approached her in front of her home to see if she recognized him.