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Top 10 Averted Tragedies And Near-misses

by C.J. Phillips
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Relief is one of the best feelings in the world. Be it making it to the toilet just in time or managing to avoid fumbling your catch in the final game of the World Series, that rush of endorphins one gets at the moment of triumph over the Cosmic Joker is unbeatable.

Here’s a list where that phenomena are definitely at play – near-death experiences with some mercifully happy endings. But in some entries, the magnitude of what could have been may serve to dampen down the momentary relief, putting into action changes that effect the way we live today.

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10 Broken Trust

As much as the idea of CCTV being everywhere is creepy, there is an obvious benefit to the remotely monitored cameras being all over the place. Their ability to provide evidence of crimes and even help prevent worst case scenarios are obvious – footage of a crime is a powerful, irrefutable evidentiary boon. No case better exemplifies this than an attempted kidnapping caught on security camera in 2017.

A couple in Auckland, New Zealand, reported that their 11-month-old baby had been abducted from their home during the early hours of August 9th. Police quickly mobilised, managing to locate and return the infant within a few hours. The kidnapper was the family’s hired nanny, a woman named Nadene Manukau-Togiavalu, who had hidden her criminal record in order to secure a job as a nanny. In the months leading up to the abduction, the woman had posed with a fake baby-bump in pictures. These pics were snapped at a “baby shower” – she was not pregnant.

In a time before ubiquitous security cameras, it is hard to imagine that this case would have been resolved so quickly, or even at all. Manukau-Togiavalu received a 3-year sentence and, as of 2019, is out on parole.

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Couple Nearly Killed By A Flying Rock From Building Demolition

Much like trainspotting and collecting beanie babies, the niche interest of watching buildings get demolished can be a dangerous pastime.

A group of people gathered at a (seemingly) safe distance from an old clothing factory in the Czech Republic to watch it get demolished. Just as the charges were detonated, a stray chunk of masonry flew from the collapsing building, narrowly missing the group of boom-gawkers. When you watch the slo-mo, it is obvious that, had the chunk of concrete hit one of the onlookers, it would have instantly killed them. Luckily for these guys, it missed. Barely.

8 Scarily Familiar

As critical as many have been of the draconian responses from various security institutions worldwide in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001, it’s hard to brush off the sheer amount of terror plots that have been foiled by the beefed-up institutions and agencies. One such plot bore a chilling resemblance to 9/11 itself and very nearly succeeded… in 2019.

A Kenyan national (Cholo Abdi Abdullah) decided to replicate the fateful attack on the ‘Twin Towers’ in New York City. He trained for years to become a certified pilot in the Philippines, worked on hijacking strategies and was in possession of bomb-making equipment. The man was taking his orders directly from al-Shabaab, the African terror organization associated with al-Qaeda.

Thankfully, the plot was uncovered, but it serves as a stark reminder that international terror cells still operate and continue to be a threat against innocent civilians.

7 Brotherly Love

Two year old miraculously saves twin brother (full video)

You’ll often hear stories of ‘super-human’ feats by parents or spouses when confronting a crisis. You know the tale – a mother gets a sudden adrenaline rush, her muscles lock and she lifts a pick-up truck to free her trapped toddler. This entry is arguably more amazing.

Two toddler twins, Bowdy and Brock Shoff, were playing happily in a bedroom of their suburban family home in Orem, Utah when an IKEA dresser they were using as a climbing frame toppled over, trapping Bowdy underneath it. Little Brock immediately tries to push the dresser but to no avail. He clambers over to the other side but cannot dislodge his sibling.

After a moment of strategizing, Bowdy wiggles and rolls as best he can whilst Brock pushes the fallen furniture, freeing his brother. It’s clear that neither were quite aware of the potential outcome that could have occurred – when the boys’ mother came into the room to check on them, she also had no idea the peril her son had just been in or the heroism her other boy had shown – they had simply carried on playing.

On reviewing the video footage, the boys’ mother immediately bolted the dresser to the wall to avoid future mishaps.

6 The Moon And Khrushchev

Everybody knows the amazing story of Stanislav Petrov, the duty officer aboard a Soviet submarine who saved the world from nuclear annihilation in 1983 when he refused to believe the US had launched missiles against his homeland. It turned out Petrov’s hunch that a glitch had occurred was correct.

What is not as well-known is that the world was nearly consumed by nuclear conflagration decades before this. In this 1960 incident it was not a glitch in the satellite warning system that caused the situation.

It was the moon.

The northern Thule radar-based warning system that forced NORAD into a state of “high alert”, just short of launching a reciprocal attack, reported that the likelihood of a massive Soviet launch was 99.9%.

There was only one flaw in this logic; a fact not quantifiable by the machines – Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier, was in New York City during this supposed launch against the US. This fact caused doubt for the Americans, who calmly (or, according to some reports, in a state of utter panic), resolved that this was probably a mistake.

It turned out that a rising “super blood moon” had caused the faulty warning by the radar devices in Greenland. If ever there was proof that humans should not cede judgment to machines, this is it.

Adjustments and improvements were made in the wake of this near miss to avoid the scenario of our planet getting annihilated due to the presence of the moon.

What would that look like?

5 Jolly Lucky

Rally Valle d’Aosta 2014 – Big crash

If the video of those Czechs who were narrowly missed by the flying masonry made your butt clench up, get ready for a full ass-implosion with this entry. A group of spectators watching the ‘Jolly Rally’ in Valle d’Aosta in Italy back in 2014 got their fair share or thrills when a yellow Renault drifted off the tracks and careened into the bank where they were located.

Most of the standing spectators managed to dodge quickly out of the way of the onrushing vehicle. The young people who were sitting? Not so quick. Of the five spectators (2 men, 3 women), the 2 men managed to get up and run from danger. Two of the young ladies managed to react just in time, scootching backwards just as the car flips towards them. One girl barely moves. Luckily for her, the wrecked car (as well as the rocks and clods of undergrowth thrown up by the crash) all miss her.

Probably the most frightening aspect of this is that the young woman chose to wear light-coloured jeans that day…

4 Doctor MacGyver

A crisis on an airplane, thousands of feet above the earth with no hope of getting external assistance is an absolute nightmare. Luckily for one unnamed man who suffered a medical emergency whilst journeying from China to New York City, there was a doctor, a drinking straw, a syringe and an oxygen mask on his flight. If this random assortment of things had not been present, the unnamed man could very well have died.

Dr. Zhang Hong was alerted to the elderly passenger’s plight when he complained of a sudden, agonizing pain below his stomach. The doctor quickly intervened, discovering that the man had a history of prostate enlargement – he needed to get his bladder drained quickly or his condition would soon deteriorate.

Given the plane was still 6 hours away from New York, it became clear that this was a life-and-death situation. With no medical equipment appropriate to this particular emergency readily available, the ingenious Dr. Hong managed to construct a catheter from a syringe, a drinking straw and the plastic tubing of an oxygen mask, thus allowing him to drain nearly a lite of trapped urine from the ailing passenger’s bladder. Dr. Hong used his makeshift device in the same manner as siphoning gasoline from a car’s fuel tank—by sucking and, thankfully, spitting (the real hero was the stewardess who handed the doctor a cup, giving him somewhere to dispense the released pee).

3 The Falling Wife

If there is a situation more frightening than suffering a medical emergency on a plane it would be falling from a plane without a working chute. That’s exactly the situation Victoria Cilliers found herself in when she jumped from a plane back in 2015. As she fell to the ground below, she could feel that things weren’t quite right – the cords of her shoot were tangled. She spun out of control, the chute never fully opening. As groundcrew watched her helplessly, noting that she looked like a ‘ragdoll’ as she fell, they collected a body bag on their way to locate her, certain that she had died. Another person who was certain she’d died was her husband, Emile Cilliers. This was because he had purposely sabotaged her chute (and, for good measure, her reserve chute too).

Victoria survived. Luckily for her, the field she crashed into at around 130 miles per hour had been ploughed the day before, softening the blow and saving her life.

Emile had previously tried to kill Victoria by causing a gas leak at their home. The former sergeant in the Royal Army Physical Training corps had tried to off Victoria for the insurance money (plus, given his extra-marital sex life, a degree of liberation from his matrimonial bonds). He was found guilty and sentenced to 18 years to life in prison. As of 2020, Victoria Cilliers is still trying to move on, but Emile still holds part of her freedom in his hands – on top of the violence he inflicted upon her, he refuses to sign divorce papers.

2 Not Your Average Car Crash

The dramatic video of the aftermath of a car-crash suddenly turning into a nightmarish explosion looks more like it was directed by Michael Bay than an event in real life. Unfortunately, it was most certainly the latter.

Locals had been calling for local authorities in Hurst, Texas to do something about their road – cars had flipped over there in the past, with drivers tearing down the suburban street as though it were the freeway.

In August, 2018, a man driving without a licence, crashed his SUV into the home of the Dixie and Charles Bridges. Unbeknownst to the family, the driver and the multiple police who’d arrived at the scene, the car had severed the house’s gas line, causing the explosion.

The Bridges and their adult son were inside the home at the time, with 61-year-old Dixie trapped under the car that’d just smashed into their house. Miraculously, nobody died, even though the family, plus two officers, were hospitalised.

1 The Drowning Bride

There is a viral trend for wedding photography that modern brides now enjoy inflicting on their social media followers—“trashing the dress”, whereby they jump into a body of water or cover it in muck and mud. One such event was conducted after the 2015 ceremony of New Jersey natives Amy Zuno and her husband Eric at a resort in Mexico. The newly married woman jumped into the sea as wedding guests raucously cheered her on. There was an instant problem, however.

The flouncy material of her long gown enveloped her completely, quickly becoming saturated and keeping her from getting to the surface. Resort workers and guests jumped into the water to uncover her, freeing her 25 seconds later. Double the time and add some panic, and she would have drowned. In fact, back in 2012, a woman in Canada drowned when she followed this same trend by jumping into a river.

Maybe they should consider Super Soakers? Or, you know, not ruining the dress and just donating it to charity? Just a suggestion…

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About The Author: CJ Phillips is a storyteller, actor and writer living in rural West Wales. He is a little obsessed with lists.

fact checked by Jamie Frater