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10 Freak Accidents People Somehow Survived

Mike Floorwalker

Ever had one of those days when you just can’t seem to catch a break? Of course; we all have. You hit every red light, hurt yourself in comically unlikely ways, and at the end of the day, you’re grateful to crawl into bed without having broken anything. The flip side are those days when nothing can go wrong, and we’ve all had those, too; maybe you ace a test you didn’t study for, luck your way into a promotion at work, or get away with running the only red light you’ve seen all day.

These are stories of people who had the mother of the first type of day, and the grandmother of the second . . . on the same day. People who found themselves struck by the worst luck imaginable—only to turn it completely around, immediately, with the biggest breaks of their lives. Lives that may have been a lot shorter had they not.

10Heart Like A Wheel

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Photo credit: IFL Science

In 2014, an unnamed Italian man in his late forties displayed some unusual symptoms in the hospital after a motorcycle accident. Specifically, doctors were having trouble getting a good heartbeat. The patient’s heart didn’t appear to be in the right place.

The condition is called dextrocardia, an abnormal location of the heart, and is usually the result of a birth defect. Of course, in this case, the patient’s heart had been on the correct side prior to the accident; the heart’s segue to the right inside his chest cavity—along with the pulmonary artery, aorta, and other blood-pumping essentials—resulted not from the impact but from air leaking out of the man’s ruptured lungs. Once the air was drained, the muscle and its associated plumbing shifted obediently back into place. The patient’s blood pressure—which had dropped dangerously low—returned to normal.

Incredibly, the patient never lost consciousness after the accident. He may be the only man who can tell us what it feels like when your ticker decides to just up and relocate. The patient made a full recovery, and we hope his heart enjoyed its brief time on the other side of the sternum.

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9The Convertible Van

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Photo credit: NBC

Motorist James Crawford’s 2012 incident falls squarely into the “funny only because nobody was seriously hurt” category. En route to work on the New Jersey Turnpike early one morning, James encountered an interloper on the highway—a gigantic, floating steel beam, being lifted by a nearby construction crane, which the crane operator had somehow allowed to drift into traffic. Before James even knew what was happening, there was a little extra ventilation in the car—that is, the beam ripped the entire top of the van off like a peel-back lid. In James’s words, “Everything was sawed off, but I was still there.”

Although he did suffer a few cuts to his face and a broken thumb, James was none the worse for wear. Stunned tow truck drivers, who arrived on the scene to find James sitting nonchalantly on the guardrail, can attest to that. Said one, “I can’t believe he walked away . . . the entire passenger side and the roof were peeled off the van completely. It looks like a convertible.”

The episode appears to have simply been a freak accident, in which stiff winds may have played a part. After investigations by state police and the construction company, no charges appear to have been filed in connection with the incident. James was out of the hospital by lunchtime the same day—and back at work the following week.

8The Man With Half A Head

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Photo credit: Know Your Meme

You’ve read the title of the entry. You see the picture. So let’s just get this out of the way—no, it’s not a Photoshop. A police report about the incident involving this man quite literally describes him with the exact words, “half a head.”

His name is Carlos Rodriguez, but for some strange reason, his friends and acquaintances call him “Halfy.” Halfy blames his . . . unique appearance on a car accident caused by drinking and drugs, in which he hit a pole, was ejected through his windshield, and you can probably guess the rest. It’s obvious that the other half of Halfy’s head ended up all over the road; what’s not so obvious is how the hell he’s still here to tell us about it.

Carlos says he had the accident at 14, but he and his unusual head only recently went viral. His mugshot was distributed online after an arrest for soliciting prostitution. In a video interview, Carlos had this advice for any reckless youth who may be watching: “And this is how the old boy has come out. That is why it is not good, drinking and driving or drugness (sic) and driving. It is no good kids.”

7The Killer Pigeon

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One sunny day in 2010, Matthew Brealy was out riding his motorcycle with a friend near his Chesterfield home. Suddenly, while traveling at about 80 kilometers (50 mi) per hour, Matthew found his view obstructed by a low-flying pigeon that had smashed right through his visor. Unfortunately, his day was about to get even worse.

The impact of the instantly dead bird knocked Matthew immediately unconscious, even shattering a lens of his glasses. He slumped forward on his motorcycle, inadvertently hitting the throttle. With Matthew blissfully unaware, snoozing in his seat, the bike ramped its speed up to about 225 kilometers (140 mi) per hour before caroming off of an oak tree (at an angle, thankfully) and ejecting Matthew onto the road.

Matthew sustained multiple rather serious injuries, including a broken leg—which required insertion of a titanium pin to correct—and not one but two skull fractures. Nevertheless, he made a full recovery with the help of his wife, who was pregnant at the time of the accident. A year and a half afterward, Matthew described himself as “99 percent back to normal.”

6The Toilet Bomb

Michel Pierre of New York City received a big surprise one day while checking the water pressure in his apartment. The water in the building had been turned off for maintenance, and Michel was curious about how his toilet would flush after it had been turned back on—but something went slightly wrong. In the astute words of Mr. Pierre’s lawyer, “Obviously there is a serious problem in the building. Clearly toilets are supposed to flush, not explode.”

Now, this was not your run-of-the-mill cherry bomb–induced toilet explosion; it was more like a toilet bomb, literally blasting the toilet into tiny shards of porcelain shrapnel, which Michel was pelted with. His wounds required 30 stitches to close, and the poor guy now stands behind a door and uses a rope to flush. He’s unable to even look at his john; “I can’t stop thinking about it every time I look at the bowl,” he says.

Okay, laugh it up, but let’s see how you feel when your trusted toilet decides it would rather be a landmine right after you’ve done your business. Amazingly, Michel’s was one of a total of four toilets that went “Kaboom” shortly after the water was turned back on in the building. He just appears to be the only one who was present for the event. Lucky guy.

5The Double Strike

In 2013, while attending a rodeo in Saint Jo, Texas, Casey Wagner had a bit of bad luck. Storm clouds were gathering over the proceedings, so Casey and a friend decided to take shelter under a tree, which you may recognize as being the exact thing one is not supposed to do in the event of a lightning storm. You can probably guess what happened next, but you would be only half right.

Casey says sparks began to fly off the trunk of the tree, and he knew he was about to be struck. “I saw a big old flash and then I knew I was going down,” he later told the press. And so he did—but he barely had time to register the shock (no pun intended) of the first strike before a second bolt struck his right foot, traveled all the way up his body, and came shooting out of his left arm.

Obviously, the odds of being struck by lightning twice consecutively are pretty astronomical; the odds of surviving such an occurrence, we could not even begin to calculate. Casey had no major injuries, just some soreness and a whole lot of numbness; either he’s the luckiest man in Texas, or—owing to his profession as a rodeo clown—perhaps he’s just really accustomed to physical abuse.

4Head Like A Hole

Now, a radioactive proton beam is one thing, but when a fishing spear charts a similar path through one’s skull, your luck quotient had better be ratcheted up significantly. Such was apparently the case with 16-year-old Yasser Lopez, a Miami youth who had a freak encounter with a gas-powered speargun while on a fishing trip with some friends. One moment, they were enjoying the sunny day; the next, Yasser was looking at 1 meter (3 ft) of fishing spear sticking out of his forehead. Yes, he remained conscious throughout the whole thing.

Yasser told the New York Daily News, simply, “I remember holding a fish my friend had caught, and then falling into the water. Then just seeing the spear in my head.” He was still awake even upon reaching the emergency room, to the amazement of the doctors; while the tip of the spear hadn’t exited, they could actually feel it pressing against the back of his skull, and they knew it had indeed gone all the way through.

Yasser initially had no memory of the incident but has regained some as he progressed in his physical therapy—a steel rod through the head tends to give one a little trouble with motor skills in the aftermath. Doctors do, however, expect him to recover completely, although Yasser isn’t so psyched about spearfishing without adult supervision anymore.

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3The Man With Half A Body

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Be warned: If the previous entry made you a little uncomfortable, it doesn’t get any better from here. Fortunately, the “really messed up” and “guys with awesome names” portions of the list coincide with each other, so there’s that.

In 2006, a Texan by the name of Truman Duncan (see?) was riding along on the front of a train car, when he . . . just slipped. He fell onto the track, started backpedaling as fast as he could—but could not outrun the wheels of the oncoming train, which grabbed him by the feet and started devouring his legs. The car came to a stop 23 meters (75 ft) later, with Truman’s entire lower half still mashed up in the wheels. One leg was still attached to his upper body by one lone muscle—but that was all.

Almost more amazing than the fact that he didn’t die instantly—he waited 45 minutes before paramedics arrived. Forty-five. Think about that the next time you’re growing impatient waiting for a bathroom stall to open up; we practically guarantee that your discomfort will lessen. Luckily, Truman is alive and well—with the help of extreme fortitude, the love of his family, and 23 surgeries in four months.

2Taking The Plunge

On her way to visit relatives in 2013, Annapolis college student Morgan Lake saw something in her rearview mirror while parked in traffic that would scare the life out of most of us. It was an 18-wheeler big rig, and it was not slowing down. Canadian Gabor Lovasz, on a solo haul through the US for the very first time, was in the middle of committing at least four major traffic infractions—or at least one too many to notice Morgan’s Chrysler Sebring and another vehicle dead in front of him. The ensuing impact would have been bad enough on its own, but Morgan was on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The big rig first slammed her car off of the concrete embankment before nudging it lovingly up onto it—and then over it.

Morgan’s car, with its windshield and driver’s window now shattered, plummeted about three stories into the bay. Since it was missing some windows, it began to sink fast, and Morgan began to panic even faster. But, as she was later able to tell the press, she simply “got [her]self together” and decided she wasn’t going to drown that day. She unbuckled her seat belt, got out through the decimated driver’s window, and—for what must have been the longest 20 or 30 seconds of her life—swam to the surface.

Morgan made it to some rocks surrounding one of the bridge’s supporting abutments. She stayed there until she was rescued by police a short time later. A trip to the hospital revealed only bruises, no broken bones or even cuts. Lovasz was charged with the aforementioned four major traffic infractions, to which he pled guilty. While a Transportation Authority spokesperson described the Sebring’s bridge dive as “very uncommon,” the last such incident was in 2008—also involving an 18-wheeler and two cars, and in which the driver who went over the bridge was killed.

1He’s A Lumberjack, And He’s (Somehow) Okay

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Finally, we have the incredible story of 74-year-old chainsaw enthusiast Forthman Murff. We’d like to remind you that we’re not making any of this up. While out alone in the woods one day, cutting down trees (an activity we don’t recommend), Forthman was beset by the freakiest of freak accidents. A tree he had just felled pulled down a high-hanging branch with its downdraft; the branch struck Forthman, knocking him into a ditch. While this was happening, the falling tree knocked down another, different tree, which proceeded to fall on Forthman’s leg—breaking it, and pinning him where he was. And his bad luck was just warming up for the main feature.

Forthman was briefly knocked out; when he came to, he had discovered that he had fallen on his chainsaw—which was still running and busy cutting completely through his neck. Ticked off by this development, Forthman says, “It made me mad, and I just threw that saw off . . . [the blood] wasn’t coming in spurts, so I thought I might have a chance.” Forthman staggered to his truck with a death grip on his massive wound, stopping periodically to let blood drain so that he wouldn’t drown in it. With his esophagus, windpipe—well, everything but his arteries and spine—completely severed, Forthman drove his truck a half mile to a neighbor’s house. He was driven to a hospital 27 kilometers (17 mi) away, and finally received treatment about an hour after nearly cutting off his own head.

Forthman had some trouble with infections (caused by sawdust in his wound) and could only breathe and speak with the help of a tracheotomy, but he eventually recovered. Ten years after the accident, Forthman told a reporter that the three big loves of his life were music, Jesus, and chainsaws—since this man was absolutely incapable of holding a grudge.

Mike Floorwalker

Mike Floorwalker's actual name is Jason, and he lives in the Boulder, Colorado area with his wife Stacey. He enjoys loud rock music, cooking and making lists.

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