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10. Cecelia Cichan was 4 when she became known as “The Miracle Child.” Young Cecelia was the only survivor when the plane she was riding in crashed shortly after taking off from Romulus, Mich., en route to Phonix. It was reported all other passengers and crew, 156 in all, perished when the Northwest Airlines Flight 255 went down, including the young girl’s parents, Michael and Paula, and her 6-year-old brother, David. A firefighter walking through the wreckage heard the young girl’s whimpering and was able to rescue her. She suffered a fractured skull, broken collarbone and leg and third-degree burns. She went through several operations for skin grafts and many weeks of therapy. The crash is known as one of the deadliest air disasters in U.S. history. Cecelia, who is now 33 and married, broke her 25-year silence about the crash 4 years ago when she was featured on the special documentary “Sole Survivor.” She has a small tattoo of an airplane on her left wrist to remind her of the tragedy that she thinks about every day.
9. In the midst of chilling mid-June darkness in 2009, and against heavy odds, 14-year-old Bahia Bakari clung to a piece of wreckage in the Indian Ocean after the plane she was riding in crashed, killing all other 152 on board. The young French girl, who was flying from Paris with her mother to a vacation in Comoros, drifted in the ocean for nine hours. She barely knew how to swim and had no life jacket, only her will to survive. She was finally rescued and was returned to Paris, where Minister Joyandet exclaimed: “It is a miracle; It is an absolutely extraordinary battle for survival. It’s an enormous message she sends to the world…almost nothing is impossible.”
8. On Christmas Eve, 1971, 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke and her mother were flying over the Peruvian rainforest with lots of Christmas goodies on board – presents, flowers, cakes and the such, when suddenly the plane’s left engine caught fire, and the craft began falling from the sky. “That is the end, it’s all over,” said her mother as the plane pitched and went into a two and a half mile fall. Those were the last words Juliane’s mother said to her. After the plane crashed in a mountainous region of the Amazon jungle, Juliane found herself all alone. Her mother was missing, and Juliane spent hours searching for her deep into the thick forest, but to no avail. She was, indeed, gone. Juliane continued through the jungle searching for help. Several days and nights passed, then, on the ninth day after the crash, she discovered a canoe and shelter. A short time later, a group of lumberjacks showed up and transported Juliane down the river to a lumber station. She was then airlifted away from the area and to a hospital. She now lives in Germany and is a successful biologist.
7. In all of these stories, you could call it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But none so much as in the case of Vesna Vulovic. And we’ll tell you why in just a minute. In January of 1972, Vesna, a 22-year-old Serbian, was a flight attendant aboard JAT Flight 367 when a bomb went off, tearing the plane into several pieces. The explosive device was later attributed to Croatian Ustashe terrorists. The plane’s ripped apart pieces began falling from more than 33,000 feet and, after a three-minute fall, crashed into a frozen mountainside. A German man, who was a former medic in World War II, rushed to the scene and began scouring the area for survivors. There were none. Then he spotted the extremely battered flight attendant. Vesna was lying with another body and a serving cart on top of her. She had suffered a fractured skull, two broken legs, and three broken vertebrae, which left her temporarily paralyzed. She was in a coma for a month. But even after the terrible crash, Vesna returned to the airlines, assuming a desk job role. The Guiness Book of World records claims she has fallen the farthest and survived. But as it turns out, Vesna should not have even been on the aircraft, as schedulers mixed up her and another woman named Vesna while assigning the flights.
6. For eight days, Annette Herfkens, a 31-year-old Dutch woman, lay mangled in the wreckage of a plane that went down just 12 miles from its destination, just two minutes before it would have landed. The YAK-40 jet, flying from Ho Chi Minh City, was carrying 24 passengers and a crew of six when it went down in bad weather just short of its beach resort destination at Nha Trang. Herfkens was trapped in the fuselage of the plane for eight days listening to the moans and cries of other passenger before one by one went silent. Her finance, who was traveling with her, died instantly in the crash. The woman suffered multiple injuries and survived only on rainwater.
5. Sometimes, the bad guys get away. On June 16, 1948, Huang Yu, of China, was one of four men who stormed the cockpit of Miss Macao, an American-owned seaplane and attempted to gain control. The plane had left Macau and was headed toward Hong Kong. It was the first recorded hijacking of a commercial plane. When pilot Dale Cramer refused the takeover demands, he was shot dead. He then collapsed onto the controls and the plane went into a nosedive, crashing in the Pearl River Delta. Just before the crash, Huang Yu jumped from an emergency exit and managed to survive. Everyone else on board was killed. The survivor confessed to being the leader of the hijackers when rescuers found him, but authorities released him when the British colonial government in Hong Kong said it had no authority over him. He was released and sent back to China.
4. If it wasn’t for luggage and clothing tumbling on top of her to protect her from freezing conditions, 13-year-old Francesca Lewis would have probably died. The small plane she was riding in crashed in December of 2007 in the Panamanian mountains. The three others aboard the plane — Francesca’s best friend, Talia Klein, 13, Talia’s millionaire father, Michael Klein, 37, and pilot Edwin Lasso, 23 — died instantly. For nearly three days the young girl went without any food or water. She was found strapped to her seat upsidedown, wearing only a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Amazingly, there were no broken bones and only a few scratches on her. After rescuers searched for days, Miguel Vurac spotted one of the plane’s wings hanging from a tree through his binoculars. He was unaware a hefty reward had been offered to find the plane.
3. Minor Vidal picked up some very useful things when he was in the Boy Scouts… things that possibly saved his life. Vidal was the only survivor when the small commercial plane he was riding in crashed in Bolivia in September of 2011. For the next 62 hours, he survived by eating insects and drinking his own urine. And even though he sustained head and rib injuries, he was able to paint an arrow with his own blood that would, hopefully, lead rescuers to him. The 35-year-old pharmaceuticals and cosmetics salesman was later rescued by those aboard a navy patrol boat and he told them of the crash, that he could hear the eight others aboard the downed plane screaming for a while before all went silent. That moment, he said, was horrible.
2. Twelve-year-old Isaac Allai was one of 26 Jewish children being transported to a Norway rest camp in November of 1949 when the Dutch-chartered plane he was in crashed in a forest 30 miles southwest of Oslo. Two of his brothers and a sister died in the crash. Altogether, 34 of the 35 on board perished. Isaac was trapped for two very cold days and nights before rescuers – hearing his painful cries – found him. He sustained only a bruised wrist and scratched nose. Officials said being in the rear of the plane helped Isaac’s survival.
1. When the private twin-engine plane carrying 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler went down in Kuttawa, Ky., she was the only survivor. The crash, in early 2015, killed both of her parents, a 9-year-old sister and a 14-year-old cousin. The plane had left Key West, Fla., en route to the family’s home in Mount Vernon, Ill., when it began experiencing engine problems. Young Sailor attempted to “wake up” her family, believing they might only be asleep, but she quickly realized that they were deceased. The girl then lit a stick from the burning wreckage and walked barefoot with one sock through dark brush for nearly a mile before coming to the home of Larry Wilkins, 71, who immediately called 911 before attempting to clean the blood from Sailor’s head and arms.