Suicide is a permanent bad solution to a temporary problem
Is it possible to fall out of an airplane from thousands of feet in the air and survive without a parachute? Common sense would tend to make one think the simple answer is no. Grant you, most folks who have done so have met a horrific fatal ending, but
It is nearly beyond comprehension how it is possible to fall thousands of feet and not be killed instantly, but that just simply doesn’t always happen!
Not only has a person survived such a fall, but multiple people have—not just one.
The “Guinness Book of World Records” says that Vesna Vulović of Yugoslavia was 23 years old and working as a Jugoslavenski Aerotransport hostess when she survived a fall from 33,333 feet over Czechoslovakia on January 26th, 1972.
According to the official accident report, a briefcase bomb in the baggage compartment tore the DC-9 she was working aboard to pieces in mid-air. She was the only survivor.
Poor Vesna didn’t land unscathed from her fall from 33,000 feet, though. She was hospitalized for 16 months and was in a coma for 27 days. She suffered a fractured skull, three broken vertebrae, broken legs, broken ribs, and a fractured pelvis. These injuries resulted in her being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. Vesna made an almost complete recovery, but did walk with a limp the rest of her life. She lived until the age of 66 and died in 2016.
Investigators believed that the fuselage, with Vulović pinned inside, landed at an angle in a heavily wooded and snow-covered mountainside, which cushioned the impact. Vulović’s physicians concluded that her history of low blood pressure probably caused her to pass out quickly after the cabin depressurized and kept her heart from bursting on impact.
While Vesna certainly holds the world record she is not the only one to survive a fall of over 10,000 feet.
According to the Geneva based Aircraft Crashes Record Office, Amazingly, between 1940 and 2008 there have been 157 people who have fallen out of a plane without a parachute and lived!
Forty-two of those 157 falls occurred at heights over 10,000 feet! One such incident involved a British Tail-gunner whose plane was shot down in 1944 during WWII. He fell over 18,000 feet without a parachute. His fall was broken by pine trees and soft snow. After his “landing” he found himself completely fine, except for a sprained leg. Things didn’t initially improve for him, though, as he was quickly captured by the Germans.
Apparently the Germans were more impressed by his near death experience than the fact he was an enemy soldier, because they released him the following May after having given him a certificate commemorating his fall and subsequent survival.
The science that provides some explanation for how this is possible seems to be that it is estimated that the human body reaches 99% of its low level terminal velocity after falling 1,880 feet which only takes 13 – 14 sec.
This results in a top speed of between 117 – 125 mph at normal atmospheric pressure in a random posture, but up to 185 mph in a head down position. One might think (me being one) that you just keep going faster and faster until you hit the ground, which isn’t true, but still you are going to hit at over 100 mph!
I don’t recommend trying to take Vesna Vulovic’s title away from her in the “Guinness Book of World Records” by jumping out of an airplane higher than 33,000 feet and hoping you will survive. I would speculate that the number of people who have tried to commit suicide by jumping out of an airplane to be very few.
Many people seem to want to jump to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge, however. The four-second fall from the Golden Gate Bridge sends a person plunging 245 feet at 75 miles per hour to hit the waters of the San Francisco Bay with the force of a speeding truck meeting a concrete building.
Jumping off the bridge holds at least a 98 percent fatality rate; and it is speculated the fatality rate is actually higher than 98% because of people whose bodies are never found after they make the jump.
As of 2013, it is estimated that 34 people have survived after jumping. Some die instantly from internal injuries, while others drown or die of hypothermia.
According to Wikipedia, “Those who do survive strike the water feet-first and at a slight angle, although individuals may still sustain broken bones or internal injuries. One young woman, Sarah Rutledge Birnbaum, survived, but returned to jump again and died the second time. One young man survived a jump in 1979, swam to shore, and drove himself to a hospital.”
In an article for “The New Yorker” magazine Tad Friend wrote, “Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before.”This observation is supported by survivor Ken Baldwin, who explained, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and leaves behind a host of devastated grieving friends and family.
As a retired railroad engineer I constantly worried about the possibility of someone choosing to use my train to kill themself. I am so thankful that didn’t happen to me, but it did to so many of my coworkers.
If you are depressed, as many are during these unprecedented times of pandemic and political turmoil, please reach out to someone and get some help. Don’t commit suicide.
Ken Baldwin realized in the four seconds it took him to hit the waters of the San Francisco Bay that he wished he hadn’t jumped. Please learn a lesson from Ken Baldwin.
All pictures from Wikipedia
Picture of emergency suicide phone on Golden Gate Bridge and one of the text hotline under the bridge