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Top 10 Luckiest Unlucky People Whose Luck Nearly Killed Them

by Jonathan H. Kantor
fact checked by Jamie Frater

You can’t measure luck — it simply isn’t quantifiable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who are luckier or unluckier than others. That person who always seems to hit their numbers at bingo or the one who never catches a break probably comes to mind.

Then there are those people who somehow find themselves on both sides of the scale. Someone who is both lucky and unlucky at the same time sounds strange, but there are a few who’ve managed it. These ten are the luckiest unlucky people, and each had a fascinating tale to tell.

Top 10 Luckiest People In The World

10 Robert Evans

Robert Evans was already having a difficult time living without a home in an encampment outside of Boulder, Colorado, in 2008. While riding his bike along the road, Evans became the unlucky victim of a hit-and-run car accident, which earned him an ambulance ride to the local hospital.

Fortunately, the accident wasn’t severe, and he was discharged with minor injuries. Walking his way back to his encampment, along a narrow railroad bridge, the man who had survived a car accident only hours earlier, was hit by a train. The passing train, which knocked him from the bridge into a creek, would have killed most people, Evans’ strange luck — if you want to call it that — saw him taken to the same hospital seven hours after he first landed there following the car accident.

Jim MacPherson of the Boulder Police Department summed up Evans’ evening, saying, “He got two ambulance rides last night,” MacPherson said. “It’s an extreme oddity that someone is hit by a car and a train on the same night. I can’t imagine that this has ever happened before in Boulder.”

9 Violet Jessup

Three White Star sister ships were involved in severe accidents and disasters, including the RMS Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic. The Titanic is the best-known, but it was only one of three similar Olympic-class ocean liners.

Serving aboard all three ships was Violet Jessup, a seriously lucky, unlucky woman. She survived Tuberculosis at an early age, and by 1908, she began working as a stewardess for the White Star line, finding her way aboard the Olympic in 1910.

That vessel collided with the HMS Hawke in 1911 and nearly sank. She walked away and joined the crew of the Titanic, which she survived by caring for an infant on a lifeboat. When war broke out, she served aboard the Britannic as a nurse, and you know what happened next.

The Britannic hit a mine, but Jessup wasn’t lucky enough to jump into a lifeboat. Instead, she leaped overboard and was sucked under the keel, where she hit her head. She survived (with a skull fracture). Despite her naval experiences, she continued to work aboard various ships, retiring at 61.

8 Matthew

On 9/11, a man named Matthew was walking along the street under the shadow of the World Trade Center when it was struck. He was on his way to a meeting when an aircraft slammed into one of the Twin Towers, and he was fortunately uninjured by any of the falling debris.

Following the attack, he “sprinted across half of Manhattan” and survived to tell the story. Having a close call with one terrorist attack is rare enough, but for Matthew, it was just the beginning of his interaction with terrorists.

On November 13th, 2015, Matthew was attending an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan in Paris, France, when it was attacked by terrorists armed with automatic rifles, grenades, and suicide vests. The Bataclan attack resulted in the deaths of 89 people, but Matthew wasn’t one of them.

He was shot in the leg, but he made his own luck after that. He played dead, and when the terrorists began to reload, he dragged himself to safety. “I inched forward centimeter by centimeter….I saw the ledge of the exit at arm’s reach. I was able to grip it with one finger, then the other.”

7 Arthur John Priest

Arthur John Priest worked as a stoker, or “fireman,” whose job was to keep the boilers of a ship steaming by constantly shovelling coal. While serving aboard the Olympic, he survived when the vessel was struck and holed below the waterline in 1911.

The following year, he got a job on the Olympic’s sister ship, the Titanic. A massive layoff saw many of his peers lose work, but he made it into the bowels of the ship. When it sank, he survived, but it wasn’t the last time he nearly died in a shipwreck.

His WWI service saw him aboard the armed merchant ship Alcantara. A battle saw the vessel sink, and he survived that as well. He later served aboard the Britannic, the other sister ship to the Olympic and Titanic, and you can guess what happened. The Britannic hit a mine and sank in November 1916, and Priest survived.

The following year, the luckiest unlucky sailor in history was serving aboard the Donegal when it was hit by a torpedo and sank in the English Channel. He survived, but it was the last vessel he called home, ending his military career in 1917 due to a head injury.

6 Roy Cleveland Sullivan

Typically, people don’t survive being struck by lightning. A single bolt carries up to 100 million volts, peaking at around 20,000 amps, which is more than enough to kill any living thing on the planet.

Still, people survive, but none have survived being struck by lightning as much as Roy Cleveland Sullivan. Sullivan worked as a park ranger in Shenandoah National Park, where he began his career in 1936. By 1942, he was on his way to becoming known as the “Human Lightning Rod.”

He was first struck outside a fire lookout tower when a bolt burned a half-inch strip along his right leg, ultimately blowing off his toenail. He was hit again in 1969 while inside his truck, resulting in the loss of his eyebrows and eyelashes. In 1970, he was struck in his front yard.

Between 1942 and 1977, Sullivan was struck seven times, and he survived each instance, though, with injury. He was lucky for surviving so many unlucky events, but it took its toll. Later in life, people avoided him out of fear of lightning, and in 1983, he took his own life at the age of 71.

5 Austin Hatch

It’s rare enough to survive a single plane crash, but Austin Hatch’s string of horrible luck involving airplanes saw him survive two. In 2003, Hatch was aboard a plane his father was flying when it went down, claiming the lives of his mother and two siblings. He wasn’t horribly injured, but the loss was difficult for the young boy.

Hatch managed to survive the wreck and grow up reasonably well, considering what he went through. Unfortunately, tragedy wasn’t going to strike his family only once, and eight years after the first crash, he was involved in another.

In June of 2011, Austin Hatch was a passenger in a small plane his father was flying when tragedy struck once more. The plane crashed, resulting in the death of his father and stepmother. The young man walked away, though he did so with a traumatic brain injury, punctured lung, and a broken collarbone, leading to a two-month-long coma.

Surviving the loss of his entire family and injuries that nearly killed him didn’t destroy the 23-year-old. He recovered and went on to play college basketball, thanks to a scholarship he received at the University of Michigan. He also works as a public speaker, sharing his experiences with the world.

4 Mason Wells

In 2013, Mason Wells was one block from the Boston Marathon bombing, which he survived unscathed. Despite being so close to the detonation, Wells was impacted by the event, but it wouldn’t be the only time he came into contact with terrorism, as he found himself near another attack across the ocean.

A few years after Boston, Wells was in Calais, France, when three Americans on a Thalys train subdued a terrorist. The incident was close to home, as he used the trains weekly to get from one city to another. He wasn’t a victim of that attack, but not long after, he was in Brussels when the airport was bombed in 2016.

While working as a Mormon missionary, Wells was in the airport when three terrorist members of ISIS attacked, using suicide bombs and other explosive devices. He was caught in a blast, which ruptured his Achilles tendon, inflicted 2nd and 3rd-degree burns on his hands and face, and peppered his body with shrapnel.

His father explained that Wells survived partly due to his experience at the Boston bombing years earlier. He said it helped him remain calm, and “despite being on the ground and bleeding, [he] actually had a sense of humor and remained calm through the situation.”

3 Anna & Helen

As everyone now knows all too well, surviving a pandemic isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Most people never contract the disease if they take precautions. Still, getting infected can be deadly, especially if the pathogen is particularly nasty, like the Influenza strain A/H1N1 that devastated the world between 1918 and 1920.

The Spanish Flu claimed some 20-100 million people, thanks to the fast spread and speed at which the virus killed infected people. Two women who were infected and managed to survive the virus were Anna Del Priore and her sister, Helen, who were small children during the Spanish Flu pandemic.

While they weren’t the only people to survive the pandemic, they are among a small community of people to survive two worldwide pandemics set more than a century apart. Anna & Helen were 105 & 107-years-old respectively, when they were infected by COVID-19.

Despite their age at the time of infection, they both managed to beat the odds and survive. Anna explained how others might succeed in living as long as she and her sister, saying, “Be good to others, keep good friends, be honest, love God — and I eat lots of hot peppers!”

2 Tsutomu Yamaguchi

On August 6, 1945, the United States of America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, killing around 140,000 people in the blast and subsequent radiation. One man who survived, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, was spending his final day in the city after a Summer spent designing a new oil tanker.

When the bomb detonated, he managed to jump into a ditch, but the shock wave pulled him into the air, spinning and hurtling him into a nearby potato patch. He was less than two miles from Ground Zero. He nearly ruptured his eardrums, and his face and forearms were severely burned, but he survived.

He made his way to a train and left for his hometown, which was unfortunately Nagasaki. Upon arriving, he made his way to a hospital. On August 9th, he was recounting his experience to the Mitsubishi company director when a flash of light outside had him leaping to the ground one more.

Miraculously, while still injured from the first blast, Yamaguchi survived the second, and thus far, only two atomic bombs used in war. He later recalled the Nagasaki blast, saying, I thought the mushroom cloud had followed me from Hiroshima.”

1 Frane Selak

Frane Selak has survived more fatal accidents than anyone, earning him the title of being the “World’s Most Unlucky Luckiest Man.” In 1962, Selak’s first brush with death came when he survived a train crash that killed 17 other passengers.

In 1963, he took his first ride in a plane, which ended when the door opened and sucked him out. He landed in a haystack while the plane crashed, killing 19 people. In ‘66, he survived a bus crash that killed four people, and in 1970, his car caught fire and exploded, but he managed to walk away.

Three years later, a similar car accident managed to burn off all of his hair, but he was otherwise unharmed. In 1995, he was hit by a bus, and the following year, he nearly hit a car in a head-on collision but survived by slamming into a guardrail.

For whatever reason, death was always coming for Selak, but he managed to avoid it at every turn. His luck changed a bit when, two days after he turned 73, he won €900,000 in the lottery. He bought some houses and a boat but gave most of his winnings away in 2010.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater
Jonathan H. Kantor

Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, and writer. He is a Retired Soldier and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects.

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