People Who Cheated Death

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Here are ten people that cheated death.

10. Hit The Nail On The Head

Isidro Mejia
Isidro Mejia

For the 39-year-old construction worker Isidro Mejia, ‘getting nailed’ took on a brand new meaning one fateful day in 2004.


Mejia was fixing a roof when he lost his footing on a ladder and fell onto his co-worker who was using a high-powered nail gun, and you guessed it, the nail gun went off. Almost immediately, six nails were driven deep into Mejia’s skull.

Barely breathing, he was rushed to the hospital and underwent intensive surgery over five days to remove the nails: 4 from his brain, one from his spine, and one lodged in his face.

Doctors said the nails were just millimeters away from rupturing his spinal cord and brainstem, saving him from paralysis or death.

Despite concerns from his neurosurgeon, Mejia miraculously made a full recovery.

9. The Man With Seven Lives

Roy C. Sullivan
Roy C. Sullivan

The chances of being struck by lightning are 300,000 to one, so imagine how unlucky park ranger Roy C. Sullivan felt being struck by lightning a whopping seven times.

Over 35 years, a series of lightning strikes resulted in some incredible injuries. On two separate occasions, Roy’s hair was set on fire after being struck by lightning.

Another strike severely burnt his shoulder, and the sixth strike injured his ankle.


All very impressive, but it was unlucky number 7 that takes the biscuit. The final time Roy was hit in 1977 resulted in Roy being hospitalized for burns on his chest and stomach.

But that doesn’t do it justice because this final strike also coincided with the 22nd time, yep, twenty-two times, which he fought off a bear with a stick.

The lightning had attracted its attention, and it tried to steal Roy’s trout – but no one takes a trout off Roy.

8. World’s Unluckiest Luckiest Man

Frane Selak
Frane Selak

Roy C. Sullivan and Frane Selak have one thing in common; they’ve danced with death seven times and survived.

Selak’s first brush with death came in January 1962, when he was on a train that crashed into a river.

He was luckily pulled to safety, although the same thing happened again in a bus crash four years later.

If that’s not impressing you, in 1963, Selak also survived a plane crash by being blown out of the plane’s door, somehow landing on a haystack.

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Meanwhile, twice in the seventies, he survived car accidents, while in 1995, he was run over by a bus.

Just a year later, while driving, Selak swerved to avoid a head-on collision and was ejected from his car, but managed to hold onto a tree as he watched his car plummet down 90 meters into a gorge.


But all that bad luck finally turned around for him in 2003, two days after his 73rd birthday, he won the equivalent of $1,110,000. Kerching.

7. Sole Survivor

Juliane Koepcke
Juliane Koepcke

Living through a plane crash is well easy. Well, at least it is compared to surviving a crash and then living for ten days alone in a rainforest while suffering significant injuries.

But that’s exactly what happened to 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke as she flew over the Peruvian rainforest on Christmas Eve of 1971.

The plane carrying her was hit by lightning, causing it to break up mid-air and leaving Juliane to plummet 3 kilometers to the forest floor while strapped in her seat.

Miraculously, she survived the fall, suffering only a broken collarbone, a gash to her right arm, and a swollen right eye.

Thankfully, her father had taught Juliane survival skills and located a small stream, which she followed in the hope that it would lead her to civilization.

After nine days alone, wading through a stream with severely infected insect bites, she found a boat moored near a shelter.

The next day, she was found by hunters and brought home to safety, where it was revealed she was the only survivor of the plane crash.

6. Tornado Torment

Matt Suter
Matt Suter

Tornados always look more fun than reality, and 19-year-old Matt Suter learned this the hard way.

Against all the odds, the teenager survived after being blown the equivalent of three football fields by a tornado in Missouri in 2006.


The 240 kilometers per hour tornado ripped through his mobile trailer, engulfing the windows, doors, and finally, Matt himself.

He descended into its vortex, passed out, and was eventually dropped into an open field.

Matt awoke and somehow managed to walk away from the field unscathed, minus a gash on his forehead.

Matt currently holds the Guinness World Record for the farthest distance survived in a tornado.

The longest previously documented incident took place on July 1, 1955, when a tornado carried a 9-year-old girl and her pony 304 meters before setting them down virtually unhurt.

Still, we wouldn’t recommend riding a tornado, no matter how bored you are.

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5. The Determined Frenchman

Pierre Cota
Pierre Cota

Could you imagine surviving a car crash, a plane crash, and still turning up to work the same day?

For one very determined French engineer, Pierre Cota, this happened on January 20, 1992.

Pierre was driving to the airport in Lyon, France, when he lost control of his car and was involved in a horrific pileup.

He courageously pulled himself from the wreckage, and instead of seeking medical attention like a normal human being, he booked a later flight and headed to the airport.

As it turns out, the plane Pierre boarded happened to be Air Inter Flight 148, aka the doomed flight that crashed into a French mountain, killing 87 passengers.

Amazingly, Pierre Cota was one of only nine who survived it.

You’d think he’d throw in the towel, but not Pierre. The Frenchman carried on his journey and made it in time for his morning meeting in Strasbourg.


4. The Real Robinson Crusoe

Alexander Selkirk
Alexander Selkirk

Having some alone time on a private beach sounds like anyone’s idea of paradise, but not for Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk, who, in the 18th century, spent four years as a castaway.

After being marooned, Selkirk predicted rescue would be imminent, so he read the Bible to pass the time.

But after weeks of hopelessly waiting, he resigned himself to an extended stay and began to create a life for himself with only rats, goats, and cats for company – sadly, no volleyball was available.

After several years of isolation, two ships drew into the island’s bay one day. Hopeful that this was his chance at rescue, Selkirk rushed to the shore.

But unfortunately, as the Spanish sailors approached, they began shooting at poor Selkirk.

Miraculously Selkirk managed to evade capture, and the Spaniards eventually departed.

It wasn’t until three years later that another ship came to his rescue. Selkirk lit a signal fire to alert the British sailors, and a landing party was dispatched to find a ‘wildman’ dressed in goat skins.

His incredible story fascinated the British public and inspired Daniel Defoe’s fictional character Robinson Crusoe.

3. Shipwrecked

Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Richard Sharp
Tami Oldham Ashcraft / Richard Sharp

Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her fiancé Richard Sharp were sailing to San Diego from Tahiti in September 1983 when tragedy struck three weeks into their journey.

The pair got caught in Hurricane Raymond and could not outsail it, so they fought desperately to keep their boat afloat.

But the 12-meter waves were too much for their small boat, which eventually capsized, knocking Ashcraft unconscious.

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The following day, the storm had passed, and Ashcraft regained consciousness.

She scrambled above deck to discover Sharp’s safety line dangling over the end of the boat, but he was gone, presumed drowned.

Alone, terrified, injured with a bad cut on her head, and grieving for her fiancé, Ashcraft unbelievably managed to rig a makeshift sail from what was left of the battered boat and navigated back to dry land.


Surviving on peanut butter and canned food, she sailed 2,414 kilometers in 41 days to reach safety in Hawaii.

2. Toilet Trauma

Harrison Okene
Harrison Okene

In 2013, Nigerian sailor Harrison Okene survived underwater for almost three days by crouching in an air bubble after his tugboat capsized while on the toilet.

The 29-year-old was the sole survivor of the Jacson-4, which overturned after being battered by heavy swells.

Harrison was underwater for almost 60 hours, with just a can of coke for company, when he heard a hammering on the deck.

A team of South African divers scouring the waters on a body recovery operation was shocked to hear faint knocking in reply.

Spooked to find Harrison in his underwater air pocket, the divers rescued him from the sea depths.

Worried about his health back on land, he spent two days in a decompression chamber following the ordeal.

1. Superhuman Skydiver

Joan Murray
Joan Murray

The possibility of surviving after falling from a height of 4,400 meters is little to none, but not if you’re superhuman skydiver Joan Murray who had a bunch of lifesaving fire ants on her side.

On September 25, 1999, panic struck Murray when mid-skydive, her main parachute, failed to open.

With nothing to slow her speed, she rocketed to the ground at 128 kilometers per hour, her fall cushioned by a mound of fire ants.

As Murray lay injured and unconscious, she was stung over 200 times by the ants.

Unbelievably, rather than adding to her injuries, doctors believed that the shock of being stung released a surge of adrenaline that kept her heart beating.

But those ants aren’t miracle workers, and Murray suffered serious injuries from slamming to the ground.

She had shattered the right side of her body and knocked out the fillings from her teeth.

She went into a coma for two weeks and had to undergo 20 reconstructive surgeries and 17 blood transfusions.

Following her crazy ordeal, she continued to work at the Bank of America, turning down retirement because of disability. She took physical therapy sessions and went on to do a 37th skydive in 2001. What a woman.


About Norman Anthony Balberan

I am a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy graduate turned full-time web developer and designer. Although my professional background is in pharmacy and tech, I have a passion for writing and am excited to share my insights and thoughts through my blog. I write about various topics that I am knowledgeable and passionate about, and I hope to engage and connect with my readers through my writing.



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