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Top 10 Most Unbelievable Child Survival Stories

by Holly Bunker
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Children have amazingly resilient bodies. They can bend and shift in ways many adults can’t. They seem to endure countless bumps and bruises without any permanent damage and even manage to look cute throughout all their crazy charades. However, even children have their limits. There are all too many stories of babies’ lives coming to unfortunate ends in unforeseen circumstances. Even so, some have escaped the chains of almost certain death in unimaginable ways. Here are ten of the most unbelievable child survival stories.

10 Freezing Temperatures

On a subzero night in Alberta, Canada, in 2001, 13-month-old Erika got out of the bed she was sharing with her mother, opened an unlocked back door, and wandered out into the cold, snowy night. At some point along the way, she fell into the snow and lay there for an unspecified amount of time. Erika’s mom didn’t realize her daughter was gone until 3:00 AM, which is when she plummeted into a mother’s worst nightmare. Amazingly, she quickly spotted the toddler lying facedown in the snow.

When the paramedics arrived, they immediately began reviving Erika’s cold, blue body. Problems arose when her limbs were so frozen that a needle could hardly penetrate the skin, and her mouth was so full of ice that breathing tube insertion was nearly impossible. Luckily, the rescuers’ persistence led to their overcoming these trials with an IV in the leg and final success with the tube.

Once in the hospital, Erika was covered with a “Bair hugger” blanket, which heated her body from the outside. Astonishingly, her heart, which had been stopped for two hours, began beating once again.[1] Erika beat all odds and survived one of the deadliest conditions.

9 Plummeting Fall

This story is no less harrowing. In a Bronx apartment in 2017, two-year-old Audrianna had become used to sitting on the windowsill, playing her on her tablet. The window was, of course, always locked. One day, circumstances changed when her 17-year-old cousin Isabella came to visit.

While the two girls were playing in the room, Isabella opened the window to amplify the pattering sound of rain outside. Then, she briefly left the room to grab a slice of pizza from the kitchen, only to hear a loud “bang” and a following scream from Audrianna, who had just fallen out the window to an awning five stories below. The awning provided the perfect cushioned landing, and the toddler escaped the fall just fine.

If the awning hadn’t been there, the toddler’s crash would have been almost certainly deadly. The little one was rescued by a neighbor, who pulled her inside through a second-story window. Audrianna emerged from the scene with just a simple bruise on her arm and a smile on her face.[2] How’s that for an impromptu skydiving experience?

8 Horrendous Car Crash

Photo credit: CBS Evening News

Another mind-boggling modern miracle occurred in Texarkana, Arkansas, in 2016, when a car was sideswiped by a semitruck that was trying to change lanes. What had originally been a car with five healthy people quickly turned into a flipped car with four injured adults and a missing eight-month-old. When it was discovered that the baby was ejected from the car, rescuers began hopelessly searching for the child’s body.

Soon, they heard a small noise coming from a patch of hay in the median. Unbelievably, the baby was sitting there in a storm drain, happily reaching up to the rescuers for them to pick her up. Even though the baby had flown 7.3 meters (24 ft) from the car due to not being restrained properly in a car seat, she was found with only a minor injury. She left the scene nearly unscathed and would live to see another day.[3]

7 Cokeville Bombing

Rarely has there ever been a story more riveting than the Cokeville, Wyoming, elementary school bombing in 1986. When David, Doris, and Princess Young entered the school on May 16, there was one goal in mind: to carry out David’s dark plan called “the Biggie.” This plan included holding all 100+ children in the elementary school hostage for $2 million each, detonating a bomb that was attached to David, and transporting all the children and money to his new world, where he would be God.

Upon arriving at the school, Princess rebelled, ran to pick up two other hostages who were being held in a van, and brought them to the sheriff’s office to alert authorities to her father’s plan. Meanwhile, Doris and David rounded up all the children and teachers into a small room for “an assembly,” which turned out to be a hostage situation. Everyone sat in the small room, surrounded by weapons, while the teachers tried to keep the students calm throughout the ordeal.

Soon, David transferred the bomb from his body to his wife’s, allowing him to go use the restroom. While he was gone, Doris accidentally detonated the bomb, engulfing her body in flames and burning many children. David came back and shot his wife while everyone else escaped. David also shot a teacher, who was escaping out the window, in the back. After that, David went to the bathroom and killed himself. The amazing part of this story? While 76 people, including the shot teacher, were injured from the explosion, not a single person died other than David and Doris.[4]

6 Alligator Attack

In 2017, during what seemed like a normal day, a Florida ten-year-old sat on the shore of a lake in Orange County. However, Juliana’s relaxing excursion quickly came to a halt when an 2.7-meter (8.8 ft) alligator chomped into her knee and calf.[5] At first, the girl punched the predator in the face, but her attempt to loosen its grip was no use. Then, she remembered a lifesaving fact she learned in Gatorland, an alligator amusement park. Jamming her fingers into the animal’s nose, the girl waited for it to lose its breath and then pried its mouth open.

After the gator let her loose, the girl jumped up screaming and ran away. Her family took her to the hospital, where she received several stitches for her deep puncture wounds. Other than that, she was okay. Authorities reacted to the attack, caught the alligator, and closed the lake for public swimming for a period of time in order to prevent similar accidents. Luckily, Juliana’s calm wisdom came to her rescue, and nobody else was injured that day.

5 Suicide Attempt

Photo credit: Google

It’s common for people to commit suicide by jumping off towering bridges, but it’s far less common for them to try to include their children in their gruesome deaths. When the Spicken family experienced just that, the outcome was nothing less than a miracle. In 2016, after getting into a heated family argument, John Spicken picked up his two toddler boys and drove away from the home. After following Spicken’s phone GPS signal, police found his empty car near a popular suicide bridge in New Jersey. At this point, the authorities knew something had gone terribly wrong.

In his family suicide attempt, John jumped off the 30-meter (100 ft) bridge—his three-year-old and one-year-old sons in tow. The three bodies landed in the trees below, missing the river underneath the bridge. Amazingly, the brush cushioned both the boys’ falls, and they each emerged alert and alive. While the father died upon impact, the young boys conquered the horrific fall, each suffering just mild concussions.[6]

4 Trash Chute Baby

After a young 12-year-old teen gave birth in her Bronx apartment in 1991, she immediately rid herself of her newborn child. Instead of bringing him to a safe drop-off, the mother threw the baby down the trash chute. The fragile infant fell four stories and landed amid the rubbish below. Around 9:45 AM, two and a half hours after the fall, the maintenance men were about to turn on the compactor when they heard a noise coming from the dumpster. Instead of turning on the compactor, which would have instantly smashed and killed the child, the two men decided to call the police.

When a patrol sergeant came to check out the scene, he crawled into the small opening of the trash compactor, where he found the feeble baby alive under a pile of newspapers. The baby was rushed to the hospital and treated for hypothermia. He was soon in stable condition. The infant had defied all odds by avoiding injury in his long fall and escaping the crushing blows of the trash compactor.[7]

3 Tornado Terror

Photo credit: XDragon

A thundering tornado stormed through Castalian Springs, Tennessee, in 2008, leaving behind a jaw-dropping pile of flattened buildings, raging fires, unending debris, and dead bodes. As rescuers scoured the area, their countenances faded as they found three corpses, all of which had been flung hundreds of feet from their homes and had become entangled in tree branches. At 1:30 AM, three and a half hours after the search for survivors had begun, one of the rescuers found a doll lying facedown in the mud. Upon closer inspection, the doll appeared to be alive and was, in fact, an 11-month-old baby.

Baby Kyson was picked up by the powerful tornado and flung hundreds of yards away from his flattened duplex, along with his 23-year-old mother, who did not survive the impact. After his silent body was picked up, the frightened Kyson was wrapped up in a coat and sat shivering, a blank stare across his face. Finally, the boy started crying, a huge relief to the rescue team. Upon closer examination, Kyson appeared healthy and basically unscathed. He was taken in by the loving arms of his grandparents, lucky to have survived an unbelievably destructive storm.[8]

2 Lost At Sea

In 1961, the Duperrault family of five took an idyllic Bahamas cruise, which quickly turned into a nightmare. In the middle of the cruise, the captain decided to carry out a sinister plan and kill his wife. His wife, not willing to go down so easily, put up a screaming fight, attracting the attention of the passengers aboard. To cover up his tracks, Captain Harvey not only killed his wife but also murdered everyone else on the ship. Everyone, that is, except for Tere Duperrault Fassbender, the 11-year-old middle child of the Duperrault family.

While the killing spree was commencing, Tere was safely in her cabin belowdecks. When she heard the screams, she came out to find the bloody bodies of her mother and brother. The ship was quickly taking on water from the aftermath of the mayhem, so instead of immediately killing her, the captain gave Tere a line to the dinghy below. He told her he would be right back and was just going to grab something before they escaped.

Tere did not fall for his lies, and instead of surrendering to her own murder, she let go of the line. Harvey never found her and returned to land, telling a tale of a sunken ship. He almost got away with murder. However, he was unaware that Fassenbender had actually survived and was fighting for her life at sea. She loved the outdoors, so despite enduring blistering heat in the day and hypothermia at night, she knew she would survive. She had no food or water to nourish her body, but her fighter spirit kept her alive. Four days into being stranded at sea, Fassenbender was rescued and lived, providing a witness to the horrendous cruise murder scene.[9]

1 Wheel Well Survival

Photo credit: AP

In 2014, in an almost unimaginable feat, a 16-year-old boy survived something almost no one else could on a standard flight to Hawaii. Instead of buying a coach ticket from San Jose to Kahului, the boy decided to hop the fence surrounding the airport and run to the wheel well of the airplane. While security cameras caught footage of his antics, nobody actually saw him do it in person. After climbing in the wheel well, he endured the five-hour flight to paradise.

Somehow, he managed to make it to Hawaii alive, overcoming subzero temperatures at oxygen-depleted heights. He reportedly became unconscious during takeoff, only to wake up an hour after the plane had landed. He completely astonished the ground crew when he emerged and was taken into the custody of welfare services.

In most cases, when a person is trapped in freezing temperatures with little oxygen, they pass away within just a few minutes. This boy must have fallen into a hibernative state, cooling his body and preserving his central nervous system. Even still, with temperatures reaching –59 to –62 degrees Celsius (–75 to –80 °F), his survival in a cramped wheel well is remarkable. He also managed to not be crushed by the landing gear folding back into the plane or fall out of the wheel well—both of which were real possibilities in this boy’s situation. Amazingly, his body fell unconscious in just the right position to hold him safely in the landing gear of the plane. After he survived the amazing feat, the boy avoided federal charges and went on to be one of the few survivors to ever overcome a wheel well flight.[10]

Holly is a stay-at-home mom, writer, and blogger, who enjoys spending time with family, traveling the world, and taking each day as a new adventure.

fact checked by Jamie Frater