12 People Who Fell from Ridiculously High Heights, But Managed To Survive

Falling is one of humans' deepest, most primordial fears. And it's a worthy thing to be afraid of, given that the impact from any fall of significant height is likely to cause serious injuries and could even lead to death. This reality is likely the reason why people are so scared of heights, yet it's actually possible to live through even the most traumatic falls – as people who have fallen off of buildings but lived to tell the tale prove.

There are all types of situations whereby someone might accidentally plummet from a great height. They could fall from the side of a cruise ship in rough seas or have their parachute fail to open during a skydive. Whatever the case, it's perfectly clear that falling from anything high would be a truly terrifying ordeal. Just take heart from the fact that such incidents do not always equal death.

Photo: Metaweb / GNU Free Documentation License

  • Vesna Vulovic Holds The Record For The Highest Fall Survived Without A Parachute

    In January 1972, Vesna Vulovic was on a flight over what was then Czechoslovakia as a flight attendant for Jugoslavenski Aerotransport. The aircraft broke up in midair when a bomb exploded onboard, killing everybody with the exception of Vulovic. She fell an estimated 33,333 ft before landing on the ground and somehow managed to survive. She was seriously injured from the accident, however. 

    She spent 16 months in the hospital and was in a coma for 27 days, as well as having dozens of broken bones. However, she went on to make a full recovery.

  • Bear Grylls Almost Died In An SAS Training Mission

    Bear Grylls Almost Died In An SAS Training Mission
    Photo: Kalei Brooks / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Before he became a popular television personality and adventurer, Bear Grylls spent a short amount of time in the armed forces. During this military service, he was involved with the SAS Territorial Army and took part in a training exercise over Zambia. During a skydive, his parachute failed to inflate.

    Thinking he had time to fix the problem before he hit the ground, he chose not to open the reserve chute and instead fell 16,000 ft and landed on his parachute pack. Although he narrowly avoided severing his spinal cord, he did break his back, which required him to go through 12 months of 10-hour-a-day physiotherapy.

  • Juliane Koepcke Lived After Her Plane Was Struck By Lightning

    Juliane Koepcke was a passenger on a flight traveling over Peru on Christmas Eve in 1971 when the plane began to experience heavy turbulence. After several minutes of passing through the storm, an engine on the wing was hit by lightning, and the aircraft plummeted towards the ground. Juliane was the only survivor out of the 91 passengers on board, and the 17-year-old landed in the jungle with a broken collar bone, one shoe, and only a few sweets for food.

    She spent 10 days in the Peruvian jungle before she was rescued. The leading theory for how she survived is that the heavy vegetation softened her fall while the row of seats she was strapped in acted as a makeshift glider.

  • Christine McKenzie Fell 11,000 Feet Onto Power Lines

    Christine McKenzie Fell 11,000 Feet Onto Power Lines
    Photo: Joe Mabel / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    August 2004 was not a good month for South African skydiver Christine McKenzie. The 23-year-old was in free-fall when her parachute failed to open. This prompted her to try her reserve chute, but this too malfunctioned and became tangled as it partially inflated. The incredibly rare occurrence meant that McKenzie hardly slowed before she smashed into a series of powerlines before hitting the ground. Those powerlines saved her life, though, absorbing most of the energy from the fall and drastically reducing her impact.

    Despite the fact that literally everything that could go wrong in her jump did go wrong, McKenzie managed to survive with just a broken pelvis and some bruising.

  • Alan Magee Lived Through A Plane Crash

    WWII Air Force Sergeant Alan Magee was part of a B-17 Flying Fortress crew that was hit by German fire during a mission. The airman not only found himself plummeting towards the planet’s surface in the wreckage of his plane, but he had also been hit by gunfire during the attack. Yet, miraculously, he still managed to eject himself from the aircraft.

    Falling through the air, Magee found that his parachute wouldn't work as it had been damaged, meaning he was in free fall when he crashed through the glass ceiling of a train station. Bizarrely, this glass ceiling actually managed to save his life, cushioning the fall enough so that he only had some minor injuries.

  • ‘Miracle Man’ Joshua Hanson Survives Fall From City Hotel

    ‘Miracle Man’ Joshua Hanson Survives Fall From City Hotel
    Photo: Michel Zacharz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Joshua Hanson astounded doctors when he survived a 200 ft fall from a hotel that would almost certainly have killed anyone else. The accident happened when Hanson ran from an elevator in January 2007. He lost his balance and fell through a window, plummeting from the 17th floor of the building onto an overhanging roof.

    From there, he fell to the ground, somehow landing on his feet. The 29-year-old suffered a myriad of serious injuries, including internal bleeding and multiple broken bones but was lucky to simply stay alive.