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10 Real Life Deaths Caught on Film

by Bryan Johnson
fact checked by Alex Hanton

A certain emotion arises in the human body when we witness a tragic event on video. Since the invention of the video camera, certain moments in time have been captured, kept and stored for everyone to see. In these clips, people have suffered at the hands of unforeseen tragedy, but as a population we learn from these experiences. Many of the videos included on this list have been studied for countless hours by world intellectuals, in an attempt to prevent similar occurrences. Some will balk at the idea of creating this article, but it was completed with a strict selection process for each clip. This is the first part of two such lists and, for the sake of not causing distress, the videos are only linked and are not embedded.


Versailles Wedding Hall Disaster


Date: May 24, 2001
Casualties: 23 People

The Versailles wedding hall was a structure located in southeast Jerusalem. On the night of May 24, 2001, Keren and Asaf Dror were celebrating their wedding reception at the location. Hundreds of friends and relatives were in attendance and the party was in full swing when a large portion of the third floor collapsed. As a result of the failure, 23 people fell to their death and 380 were injured. The event is the worst civil disaster in the history of Israel. It shocked the public, not only because of the number of fatalities, but because the collapse was documented on a camcorder. The video was broadcast on local and international television.

It is an absolutely shocking piece of tape that clearly shows the collapse. It is amazing how only one portion of the floor gives way, creating a large hole. During the rescue effort, three people were recovered alive in the rubble. An investigation into the disaster concluded that it was not caused by a terrorist attack. This was further corroborated by witnesses who reported seeing a dangerous sag in the wedding floor a short time before the failure. The sag is clearly visible in the video. An initial inquiry blamed the collapse on the Pal-Kal method of constructing light-weight, coffered concrete floor systems.

The side of the building that failed was designed to be a two story structure. Late in the construction process, it was decided that both sides of the building should be equal heights, and a third story was added to the shorter end. The engineer, Eli Ron, inventor of the Pal-Kal method of construction, was arrested and subsequently indicted, in August 2002, on the charge of manslaughter. Following the disaster, the Versailles Law was passed by the Parliament of Israel. It established a special committee responsible for treating the people injured in the event. In October 2004, the three owners of the Versailles wedding hall were convicted of causing human death and damage by negligence. [Clip]


Ramstein Airshow Disaster


Date: August 28, 1988
Casualties: 70 People

On August 28, 1988, 300,000 people attended the annual Ramstein Airshow in West Germany. The event was held at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base. During the show, a mid-air collision occurred involving numerous Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets. In the chaos, 67 spectators and three pilots died. In all, 346 people sustained serious injuries in the resulting explosion and fire. The event is the second-deadliest air show disaster in history. The mid-air collision took place as ten Aermacchi MB-339 PAN jets from the Italian Air Force display team, Frecce Tricolori, were performing their pierced heart formation. In the display, two groups of aircraft create a heart shape in front of the audience along the runway. In the completion of the lower tip of the heart, the two groups of planes pass each other parallel to the runway.

The heart is then pierced in the direction of the audience by a lone aircraft. During the accident, the heart-piercing aircraft collided with two other jets. After the impact, the plane immediately crashed into the runway, breaking apart. The fuselage and resulting fireball of aviation fuel tumbled into the spectator area, hitting the crowd and coming to rest against a refrigerated trailer. The crash site was considered to be the “best seats in the house”, centered on the show. One of the three pilots was able to eject from his jet, but was killed as he hit the runway before his parachute opened. A large amount of video was taken of the accident. Upon completing the heart figure, the piercing aircraft (Pony 10) came in too low and fast at the crossing point. The entire incident took less than 7 seconds, leaving no time for people in the crowd to run away from the flying jet parts.

Like all tragic events, this Ramstein disaster has inspired a conspiracy theory. Two months before the air show disaster, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 crashed into the Tyrrhenian Sea, killing all 81 people on-board. No official explanation on why Flight 870 experienced complete failure has ever been produced by the Italian government. The event is known in the Italian media as the Ustica Massacre. The role of Italian Air Force personnel in the tragedy is unclear.

However, several members of the group have been investigated and brought to court for a number of offenses relating to the incident, including falsification of documents, perjury, abuse of office and aiding and abetting. Four generals were charged with high treason on the allegations that they obstructed the government investigation of the accident, by withholding information about air traffic at the time of Ustica disaster. It has been suggested that two of the pilots killed in the air show disaster, Lt. Col. Nutarelli and Lt. Col. Naldini, understood details surrounding the Ustica Massacre. [Clip]


Bradford City Stadium Fire

Bradford Fire Huge

Date: May 11, 1985
Casualties: 56 People

Valley Parade is a football stadium located in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. It was built in 1886 and has been the home field for Bradford City A.F.C. since 1903. In 1908, Bradford City was promoted to the top football division. They won the FA Cup in 1911, which is Bradford’s only major honor to date. On May 11, 1985, a crowd of 11,076 fans attended Bradford City’s final Division Three game of the season, against Lincoln City. The score was tied 0–0 after 40 minutes of play, when a small fire was noticed three rows back from the ground’s main stand. Within minutes, the fire quickly spread across the entire length of the stadium. Valley Parade’s roof began to crumble, with timber and asphalt falling on the crowd. It took less than four minutes for the entire stand to be engulfed in flames.

Black smoke enveloped the rear passageways, where fans were trying to escape. In some cases, the spectators attempted to flee down narrow routes that led to locked doors. The only escape for most people was directly onto the field. The fire killed 56 spectators and at least 265 others were injured. It is believed that the blaze started when a spectator dropped a match or lit cigarette through the holes of the stands igniting rubbish below. In 1985, the Valley Parade seats did not have risers, which allowed for a huge accumulation of garbage and paper under the stand. One eyewitness, Geoffrey Mitchell, told the BBC, “It spread like a flash. I’ve never seen anything like it.” The tragedy has been described as the worst fire disaster in the history of British football. Valley Parade has undergone significant construction changes since the disaster. [Clip]


Alexander I of Yugoslavia

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Date: October 9, 1934

Since the creation of video cameras, a number of influential political assassinations have been captured on film. This article will be examining two of the most important events, the death of Alexander I of Yugoslavia, and John F. Kennedy of the United States. Other notable politicians to be assassinated on videotape include Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, Pakistan-born politician, Benazir Bhutto, Mexican politician, Luis Donaldo Colosio, Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat, and the brutal 1985 murder of Kazuo Nagano, who was a Japanese businessman who swindled 3,855 people, mostly elderly, out of 12 billion yen. Alexander I was the first king of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1929–34) as well as the last king of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1921–29). In 1921, on the death of his father, Alexander inherited the throne of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which from its inception was colloquially known as Yugoslavia.

On January 6, 1929, King Alexander abolished the Constitution of Yugoslavia, prorogued the Parliament and introduced a personal dictatorship called the January 6th Dictatorship. In the same month, Alexander tried to banish, by decree, the use of Serbian Cyrillic to promote the exclusive use of the Latin alphabet. By 1931, King Alexander put forth a new Constitution which transferred executive power to the king. On October 9, 1934, Alexander was traveling to Marseilles in order to make a visit to the Third French Republic. He was attempting to strengthen the two countries’ relationship in the Little Entente, which was an alliance by Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. As Alexander and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou traveled in a car through the streets, a gunman named Vlado Chernozemski stepped from the street and shot the King and his driver. Alexander I was instantly killed by the bullet, and Barthou was accidentally shot by a French policeman and also died in the attack.

The event was one of the first assassinations ever captured on film. The shooting occurred very close to the cameraman, who was only feet from the action. The cameraman captured not merely the assassination, but the immediate aftermath. The assassin, Vlado Chernozemski, was a Bulgarian member of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) and an experienced marksman. Immediately after assassinating King Alexander, he was cut down by the sword of a mounted French policeman, and then beaten to death by the crowd. In the video, Alexander’s deceased body can be seen. During this time in history, The IMRO was a political organization that fought for secession of Vardar Macedonia from Yugoslavia. It has since been suggested that the group was working under the secret sponsorship of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. The film record of Alexander I’s assassination remains one of the most notable pieces of newsreel in existence. [Clip]


Sknyliv Airshow Disaster

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Date: July 27, 2002
Casualties: 77 People

On July 27, 2002, over 10,000 spectators gathered to watch an air show at the Sknyliv airfield (now known as Lviv International Airport) near Lviv, Ukraine. The event was staged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Ukrainian Air Force’s 14th Air Corps. At the height of the performance, a Ukrainian Air Force Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighter, that was being flown by two experienced pilots, lost control while entering a rolling maneuver and crashed into a crowd of people. The aircraft flattened out upon impact, skidding across the ground and striking a glancing blow to the nose of an Il-76 transport aircraft. It then began to break apart and made a cartwheel into the crowd of spectators.

Both pilots were able to eject from the aircraft and survived the accident with minor injuries. The air show spectators were not as lucky, 77 people were killed in the disaster, including 19 children. In all, 543 citizens were injured and 100 of the people required medical attention for serious head injuries, burns and bone fractures. The event is the worst air show accident in history. Following the disaster, the pilots proclaimed that the flight map they had received differed from the actual layout. On the flight data recorder, one pilot asks, “And where are our spectators?” An air show pilot should always know where the crowd is located.

Professionals close to the case have suggested that the pilots were slow to react to automated warnings issued by the flight computer. Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma publicly blamed the military for the disaster and dismissed the head of the Air Force, Volodymyr Strelnykov. The pilots involved in the accident were assigned the majority of blame. They were each given lengthy prison sentences and forced to pay the families of victims a large sum of money. Many separate videos of the crash were taken and released to the public. The clip I have selected clearly shows the plane hit the crowd, but does not show the true horror and chaos that ensued. Other videos of the disaster are much more revealing. [Clip]


Station Nightclub Fire


Date: February 20, 2003
Casualties: 100 People

The Station was a glam metal and rock themed nightclub located in West Warwick, Rhode Island. On the night of February 20, 2003, the club experienced the fourth deadliest nightclub fire in American history, killing 100 people. The fire started just seconds into the headlining band, Great White’s opening song, when pyrotechnics set off by the group’s tour manager, Daniel Biechele, ignited flammable acoustic foam on both sides of the drummer’s alcove. The flames were at first thought to be part of the act, and only as the fire reached the ceiling did some people realize it was uncontrolled.

In less than a minute, the entire stage was engulfed in flames, with most of the band members fleeing for the west exit. However, Great White’s lead guitarist, Ty Longley, was killed in the disaster. As the nightclub’s fire alarm system made everyone aware of the impending danger, most people naturally headed for the front door. There were four possible exits in the building, but people began to panic. The ensuing stampede led to a crush in the narrow hallway leading to the front exit, quickly blocking the passageway completely and resulting in numerous deaths. The fast-moving fire engulfed the entire club in 5½ minutes.

The fire, from its inception, was caught on videotape by cameraman Brian Butler, for WPRI-TV of Providence, and the beginning of the tape was released to national news stations. The video shows how lucky Butler was to evacuate the building when he did. I have included the extended version of the film that is extremely revealing. Five seconds of footage captured in the middle of the tape gives a horrifying glimpse of the human crush that formed at the front of the club entrance. After the incident, the band’s manager and the club owner were convicted on involuntary manslaughter charges. As of August 2008, nearly $175 million has been offered to the families of the victims of the fire by various defendants in settlement. [Clip]


Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961

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Date: November 23, 1996
Casualties: 122 People

On November 23, 1996, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. The plane was taken hostage by three Ethiopians who were seeking political asylum in Australia. The three inexperienced terrorists used a covered bottle of liquor as a fake bomb and were armed with an axe. The hijackers demanded the plane be flown to Australia. However, the captain informed the group that the aircraft did not have enough fuel to make it all the way to Australia. Instead of flying towards Australia, the captain followed the African coastline. The hijackers noticed that land was still visible and forced the pilot to steer east. Captain Leul then secretly headed for the Comoro Islands, which are midway between Madagascar and the African mainland.

The plane was nearly out of fuel as it approached the island group, but the hijackers continued to ignore the captain’s warnings. Out of options, Leul began to circle the area. When the aircraft ran out of fuel, the crew used a ram air turbine to preserve the most essential functions, but this cut-off the hydraulic systems, making the flaps inoperable. This forced Leul to land the plane at more than 175 knots (about 320 km/h or 200 mph). While still fighting with the hijackers, he tried to ditch the aircraft in shallow waters 500 yards (457 m) off Le Galawa Beach Hotel, near Mitsamiouli, at the northern end of Grande Comore Island. Leul attempted to land parallel with the waves in an effort to smooth the landing. The left engine and wingtip struck the water first. The engine acted as a scoop and struck a coral reef, slowing the left side of the aircraft quickly, causing the Boeing 767 to violently spin left and break apart. Island residents and tourists, including a group of scuba divers and some French doctors on vacation, quickly came to the aid of the crash survivors.

Sadly, 122 of the 172 passengers and crew died in the crash. Many people perished because they inflated their life jackets in the cabin too early, causing them to be trapped inside by the rising water. This fact has directly led to further notices about not inflating the vests before exiting the plane. A tourist on the beach recorded a video of ET-AIZ crashing into the water. The clip has served as an important tool in studies of aviation crashes and procedures. The event was one of very few examples of a large airliner landing in the water, and the first hijacked water landing. Both the captain and co-pilot of the flight survived the crash and received aviation awards. They continue to fly for Ethiopian Airlines today. [Clip]


John F. Kennedy

Kennedy 13

Date: November 22, 1963

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination, in 1963. He ruled America during a time of high uncertainty and strong tensions with Russia and other communist nations. On November 22, 1963, JFK traveled, with his wife Jacqueline, to Texas in order to smooth over factions in the Democratic Party. As the Presidential motorcade entered the West End district of Dealey Plaza, in Dallas, Kennedy was attacked and shot once in the upper back. Seconds later he was shot a second time in the side of the head and died almost instantly. He was only 46 years old and remains the youngest U.S. president to die. Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the Texas School Book Depository, from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of killing Kennedy.

Oswald denied shooting anyone, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried for the murder. Following the assassination, President Johnson created the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination, which concluded that Oswald was the lone assassin. The results of this investigation are disputed by many. The death of JFK has proved to be an important moment in U.S. history because of its impact on the nation and the ensuing political repercussions. Besides the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film, the Abraham Zapruder clip of the JFK assassination is probably the most watched piece of tape in history. It gives a relatively clear view on the entire event. The video is one of the most studied and scrutinized pieces of film in history, with many impurities. It wasn’t shown to the national public until March 6, 1975, when the clip was featured on the ABC late-night television show Good Night America, hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

After the Kennedy assassination, United States Presidents stopped traveling in convertible vehicles. Today, the limousine of Barack Obama has extensive security features. It holds military grade armor and run flat tires. The doors of the vehicle weigh as much as a Boeing 757 airplane cabin door and the engine is equipped with an Eaton Twin Vortices Series 1900 supercharger system. The outside of the car is only heard through an internal speaker system. The vehicle is perfectly sealed against biochemical attacks and has its own oxygen supply and firefighting system built into the trunk. It can emit tear gas and fire a salvo of multi-spectrum infrared smoke grenades, used as a countermeasure. The limo has a driver enhanced video system and is able to move in complete darkness. The trunk acts as a blood bank for Obama and he is constantly flanked by multiple cars. When the U.S. president travels out of town, his motorcade consists of about 45 vehicles. Times have changed since November 22, 1963. [Clip]


World Trade Center Collapse

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Date: September 11, 2001
Casualties: 3,000 People

The September 11 attacks were a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda upon the United States, on September 11, 2001. On that morning, 19 al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners and intentionally crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City, killing everyone on board and many other people working in the buildings. Within two hours of impact, both of the World Trade Center towers collapsed. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania. In all, nearly 3,000 people perished in the events. According to the New York State Health Department, 836 responders have since died, as of June 2009.

In the rescue effort, 343 firefighters and 60 police officers from New York City and the Port Authority were killed. Hundreds of separate videos were taken on the morning of September 11. The tragedy was captured and broadcast on live television all over the world, with many people witnessing victims jumping to their death from the burning towers. After the initial plane hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower, a camera was constantly fixed on that area. For this reason, both the impact of the second plane on the South Tower and the subsequent building collapses were widely recorded. The raw footage is shocking and is a grim reminder of what occurred that morning. I have included a clip of the second plane striking the World Trade Center South Tower. [Clip]


Great East Japan Earthquake


Date: March 11, 2011
Casualties: 15,000 People

In the last 100 years, many tragic videos have been captured showing the world’s natural disasters. Few clips have compared to videos taken from the 2004 Indian Ocean and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami mega disasters. On March 11, 2011, an undersea megathrust earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan. It was the most powerful known earthquake to have ever hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes since modern record-keeping began, in 1900. The earthquake triggered a collection of extremely destructive tsunami waves, up to 38 meters (124 ft). In some cases, the water traveled up to 10 km (6 mi) inland.

In addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused a number of nuclear accidents, of which, by far, the most serious was an ongoing level 7 event, and 20 km (12 mi) evacuation zone around the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The plant was protected by a seawall designed to withstand a 5.7 m (19 ft) tsunami, but not the 14 m (46 ft) maximum wave which arrived 41–60 minutes after the earthquake. The overall cost of the quake could exceed $300 billion, making it the most expensive natural disaster on record. The Japanese National Police Agency has confirmed approximately 15,000 deaths.

The earthquake moved Honshu 2.4 m (7.9 ft) east, and shifted the Earth on its axis by almost 10 cm (3.9 in). The Bank of Japan offered 15 trillion yen (US$183 billion) to the banking system on March 14, in an effort to normalize market conditions. It is unusual for an earthquake to exceed the magnitude of 8.5. The 9.0 mark of this quake has surprised many seismologists. Sadly, over 100,000 children were uprooted from their homes during the disaster, some of whom were separated from their families because the earthquake occurred during the school day. Many videos have emerged showing the destruction. I have selected a clip that shows a collection of large ocean waves overpowering a Japanese city. [Clip]

fact checked by Alex Hanton