Normal logic dictates that if you fall from a great height, you’re a goner. Anything above 15ft is probably enough for you to say bye-byes, especially if you land on your head or other vital body part. Sometimes however, people can fall from as high as 10, 100 or even 1000 times this height and still walk away with just a few scratches. It hardly seems fair when there are people who snuff it from a ladder fall or from tumbling off their bungalow roof trying to fix the satellite; but then, it’s a funny old world. Here are 8 stories of people who defied the odds and stuck the middle finger up at gravity, and lived to tell the tale.
- Marissa Peone, 60ft
So we’ll start off with a (relatively) short fall. New York native Marissa Peone was studying in Hawaii for one semester when she decided to grab some down-time in the form of trekking in the Kaau Crater Trail. Unfortunately, this down-time came in a more literal sense than Peone had bargained for when she lost her footing at the peak of the first waterfall and fell 60ft to the rocky creek below. Just one week earlier, 23-year-old student Kaitlan Prugger had lost her life in similar fashion; Peone, though, was luckier. She escaped the ordeal with only bruises. And presumably, an aversion to waterfall trekking.
- Tom Stilwell, 150ft
Brit abroad Tom Stilwell was on a working holiday in New Zealand and arrived home one night after a slightly boozy night out in Auckland to find he had forgotten his keys. Ever resourceful, Stilwell went straight to his neighbor who lived directly above and asked if he could use her balcony to ‘hop’ down onto his. The nonplussed neighbor assumed Tom would chicken out when he saw the drop; but, not factoring in his alcohol intake, she didn’t realize he would actually do it. Tom fell around 15 floors – roughly 150ft – and was only saved by impacting with the roof of an outbuilding, which cushioned his fall. The 20-year-old suffered superficial injuries, but no hangover. Result!
- Kirk Jones, 173ft
In 2003, Michigan man Kirk Jones became the first person to survive falling Niagara Falls wearing just his clothes: i.e. no barrel, no lifejacket, nothing. Jones attempted the feat partly as a suicide attempt and partly as a publicity stunt; he had been suffering from depression and saw the jump as a possible way to earn money if he survived, or a way to renounce it all if it failed. He afterwards commented that he immediately regretted the decision, but on the plus side it has given him a new lease of life. He was fined $3,000, plus a further $1,408 to reimburse the park for revenue lost in the time it was closed after his stunt.
- Miko, 500ft
A German BASE jumper known only as “Miko” made headlines in October 2003 by jumping from the 35th floor of an unfinished high-rise building, which equates to just under 500ft. His parachute malfunctioned and he would almost certainly have plummeted to his death, had not its strings become tangled up in a crane. As it was, Miko was found by police dangling in rather comical fashion 150ft up in the air. He was charged with trespassing and breaking aviation laws and given several slaps on the wrist – he also received instant fame in the BASE jumping community for his feat.
- Shayna Richardson, 10,000ft
Another skydiving stunt gone wrong, in 2005 Shayna Richardson was attempting her first ever solo dive with a brand new parachute when her worst fears were realized: both the main chute and the reserve refused to play ball. Richardson impacted on one of the least desirable surfaces as well, touching down face-first at full speed in a parking lot. She suffered a broken leg, a broken pelvis in two places and six missing teeth, but, incredibly, she survived. Even more miraculously, whilst at the hospital, it was discovered she was pregnant, and the baby too survived the ordeal. Amazing.
- Christine McKenzie, 11,000ft
Christine McKenzie also fell prey to an unresponsive parachute. Unlike Richardson, McKenzie was a veteran of the sport, attempting her 112th jump when disaster struck. She fell 11,000ft onto a set of power lines, which, rather than electrocuting her or slicing her to shreds, actually helped to break her fall and save her life. She too broke her pelvis bone, but other than that, escaped with only bruises.
- Liam Dunne, 13,000ft
Remember the Brit abroad in New Zealand? Well, here’s another one. Liam Dunne emigrated to NZ in 2005 to set up a skydiving company and claims to have successfully negotiated over 4,000 jumps. This time, however, Lady Luck was not with him. He normally deploys his chute at around 4,000m but this time the main chute refused to give. He was only able to successfully utilize the reserve chute at around 400m, which probably saved his life but didn’t prevent him collecting a whole lot of injuries. He has had metal pins inserted into his spine and spent at least three months in rehabilitation. He has since said that the last 1,000ft were spent in resignation to his fate and regret at the idiotic manner of his death; “What a stupid way to orphan your kids,” were the lucky man’s comments. He is planning to skydive again as soon as possible… err, Liam? Take the hint?
- Steve Fossett, 29,000ft
Steve Fossett was a record-breaking aviator and hot-air balloon driver who became the first man to sail around the world non-stop in a balloon in 2002. However, previous to this, he had five attempts at the record, one of which very nearly cost him his life. In 1998, Fossett was on the last leg of his fourth attempt when a violent thunderstorm tore his balloon to shreds and sent him tumbling into the choppy waters of the Pacific Ocean 29,000ft below. Hail ripped through the balloon and forced Fossett to evacuate the balloon, which turned into a fireball. He was rescued by an Australian ketch and would finally best his rival Richard Branson four years later. He died in 2007 after disappearing on another record-breaking attempt. He cheated death once; unfortunately he wasn’t so lucky the second time.