Terror on the tracks: hero engineer saves passengers from derailed train!
A crowded commuter train on the metro-north railroad was proceeding with its rush-hour service on February 4, 2015, when it struck a disabled vehicle on the tracks near Mount Pleasant, New York. The horrific incident claimed the lives of six people and wounded 12, but these grim totals could have been even higher without the courageous efforts of engineer Steve Smalls.

Moments before the collision, Smalls was working in the first car’s engineering compartment and spotted the SUV blocking the tracks ahead. According to the New York Daily News, the Air Force veteran and father of two sounded the train’s horn and pulled its emergency brake approximately five seconds before the collision.

Smalls narrowly avoided an 80-foot section of electrified third rail that crashed through his compartment and nearly impaled him. Intense flames and thick smoke followed, with the fire reaching temperatures hot enough to melt some of the train’s windows. Despite these deadly circumstances, the engineer continued to help the train’s shaken commuters escape from the wreck.

“He feels like he shouldn’t be here, and he doesn’t know how something so horrific could have happened,” Smalls’ sister, Latisha Davis, told the New York Daily News. “Right now, he’s just trying to deal with everything emotionally. He said it still feels like a dream.”

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Nine-mile swim: Former NFL player forced to swim 16 hours to shore!
Playing in the NFL is certainly tough on the body, but it was nothing compared to what former Miami Dolphins fullback Robert Konrad had to endure in early January of 2015.

Konrad’s boat was on autopilot when he fell off into the water at 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. There was no one else on board and no other boats or vessels in sight, so he was forced to swim 9 miles to shore, much of which took place at night.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 255-pound Konrad not only had to battle the darkness, but frigid waters and wildlife in the ocean. He told multiple media outlets that a shark had circled him at one point and that he was stung by what he believes were jellyfish.

A search was launched for Konrad after he failed to return on time from his trip, however, Coast Guard helicopters did not spot him despite passing directly overhead at one point. Undeterred, Konrad kept his eyes on the shore and his family in mind. After 16 grueling hours in the water, Konrad reached land at 4:30 a.m on Thursday.

After reaching the shore, Konrad warmed up briefly before walking up to an oceanfront mansion and ringing the doorbell. He was treated for hypothermia once on land. While Konrad’s swim measured 9 miles, the distance covered (including drift and other factors) actually totaled 27 miles. It may have been Konrad’s football mentality of “never quit” that allowed him to reach shore.

“Happy to be here,” Konrad told the Associated Press. “I shouldn’t be here.”

Texting saves hikers: 15 California hikers saved thanks to last-ditch text.
Miracles come in all different forms. For one Huntington Park, California, church group, a miracle came in the
form of a text message. A group of 15 church members were hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains, some 50 miles east of Los Angeles, when they became lost. Walking in drenched clothes, the group didn’t have many options in the remote area.

One cell phone in the group had a single bar of reception, the Los Angeles Times reported. It was that phone that was used to send the text “help” to a family member with the hopes that it went through. It did. The text message was received by a relative who reported it to local authorities around 9:30 p.m. on a Sunday night.

Due to thick fog, search-and-rescue teams were constricted to the ground overnight, the LA Times reported. The church members were forced to make a fire to stay warm.

After no luck overnight, an aerial team in a helicopter located the group the next morning. They were airlifted out of the wooded area one by one. The LA Times reported that two members of the group were treated for hypothermia and two others for “minor leg injuries,” but no one was seriously injured during the ordeal.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Johnie Jones said the fact that the group stayed in the same place while rescue units searched played a major role. “If you keep moving, it’s almost impossible to find you,” he told the LA Times.

Pacific Ocean rescue: Stranded kayaker rescued by Coast Guard!
A lone sailor attempting a voyage from California to Hawaii aboard his kayak ran into trouble after leaving his
Monterey port. The 57-year-old mariner was headed on a 2,400-mile voyage to Honolulu in his kayak when his solar panel malfunctioned about 60 miles southwest of Santa Barbara’s Point Conception. At that point, he was already 11 days into his trans-Pacific journey.

The solar panel was being used to charge all of the sailor’s navigational equipment, so its failure prevented the kayaker from finding his way. He sent a distress call while trying to get back to the California coast. A helicopter spotted him and directed a boat crew to the sailor’s position, where he was picked up.

Lucky to be alive, the sailor was found to be in good health. He owes his rescue to some good planning prior to his trans-Pacific voyage, which is a dangerous journey for a solo kayaker.

Black Bear Attack: Man fends off 525-pound predator with hunting knife!
Hunting and tracking bears is nothing new to Brandon Johnson. He’s been doing it for more than 25 years. And in that time, Johnson had never been attacked. That changed on September 27, 2014, in the woods of Minnesota, when Johnson had to fight for his life against a 525-pound black bear.

Johnson was helping a fellow hunter track the bear, which had been arrowed earlier. It was the bear, however, that found Johnson. The massive bear bit Johnson on the face and then clamped down on his left arm, instantly breaking it. Johnson managed to fight off the bear with a 5-inch knife that he had in his right hand, all while screaming as loud as he could.

The victory was short-lived, however, as the bear returned minutes later for a second strike. Johnson managed to fight it off again, continuing to scream for help to nearby friends.

The third time would be the last attack. Holding his knife, Johnson managed to push his right hand into the bear’s mouth with a strong stab. After that, Johnson was finally left alone. Friends found Johnson and helped him walk to an ambulance. The bear was found dead the next day, 50 feet from where the battle with Johnson took place.
“Once I got to the point where I thought I was going to die, and I got myself to the point where I was ready to die, there was no more fear,” Brandon Johnson told KARE 11, a local news station.

Surviving the fight, however, was only half of the battle for Johnson, who is looking to raise funds to cover his extensive medical bills as a result of the attack. Johnson and his friends and family have established a fundraising website, which can be found at youcaring.com.

12 Days at sea: Lone fisherman defies mother nature’s wrath!
Ron Ingram, a 67-year-old, experienced fisherman, set sail in his 25-foot boat from Molokai, Hawaii, and headed to Lanai. At some point, Ingram’s boat, named Malia, started to take on water. With both of his masts broken, Ingram navigated via a little auxiliary sail to try and make his way back to port.

Ingram sent a Mayday message, but a 12,000-square-mile search found nothing. His son, Zakary Ingram, of St. Joseph, Missouri, was contacted, and he pleaded with the Coast Guard to keep searching for his dad.

“When the commanding officer for the Coast Guard told me he was going to call off the search, I said, ‘Man, I don’t think you should call if off because I don’t think he’s gone,” Zakary told Hawaii News Now.

Twelve days after Ron Ingram went missing, he surfaced again with a distress call. This time it was picked up by the Coast Guard: “We got a Mayday here. Mayday. This is the Malia. Anybody pickng this up?”

The coordinates placed Ingram 64 miles south of Oahu and 3 miles from the Navy destroyer USS Paul Hamilton. It reached him and gave the stranded sailor aid. U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Scott Carr praised the “great job by the U.S. Coast Guard command center to hear the Mayday call and recognize it. There was great joy around the command center to know that Ingram was alive and he’s going to be okay,” Lt. Scott Carr added.

It is a mystery how Ingram was able to survive at sea. “Twelve days, man,” Zakary Ingram noted. “He’s a champ! He’s tough.”

Braving Alaska’s Wilderness: Injured man survives sub-zero temperatures and a wolverine attack!
On December 15, 2014, Alaskan native Craig Johnson was subjected to the worst Alaska’s wilderness has to offer and made it out alive. Johnson was traveling to visit family in Barrow when, 50 miles into the pitch-black trip, his snowmobile fell through the ice, taking Johnson with it. The trek from Wainright to Barrow is approximately 80 miles across Alaska’s most northern wilderness, where temperatures drop well below zero.

Johnson was covered in freezing water and suffered a punctured lung. Still, the father of two pulled himself out of the water and continued his journey by foot. “I almost gave up…but I couldn’t give up. I had to do it for my boys, my family,” Johnson told ABC News. “I think it’s a miracle that I’m alive.”

With his family in mind, Johnson marched forward, but was confronted with something even worse than the sub-zero temperatures. He told ABC News that he could hear a wolverine stalking him from behind. He fired off multiple warning shots that failed to scare away the animal. He then reverted to using a stick to defend himself before finding a wooden box that he used as shelter.

That shelter would come in handy as Johnson struggled to survive for three days. Temperatures had dropped to 35 degrees below zero, ABC News reported, when Johnson’s cousin approached the area where he sheltered.

The cousin was alerted to Johnson’s position by yells coming from the shelter. Saved from the wilderness, Johnson was treated for frostbite at a local hospital and later returned to his family.

Saved from the wreckage: Driver survives massive tractor-trailer pileup!
Black ice is a serious hazard in the winter, especially for truck drivers. On a Saturday morning in January on Oregon’s Interstate 84, a particularly icy stretch caused a massive pileup involving more than two-dozen cars. Kaleb Whitby was among those drivers involved in the pileup.

Coming around a curve on I-84, Whitby, in his own semi truck, saw that another tractor-trailer had jackknifed. He swerved to the best of his abilities, but Whitby still struck the back end of the jackknifed truck.

Whitby’s passenger side was left exposed to oncoming traffic. He barely had time to recover from the first crash before he saw another tractor-trailer bearing down on him.

“I just braced and hoped that everything would be all right,” the 27-year-old Whitby told The Oregonian. There was nothing to do but hope.

Whitby’s truck was caught in between two semi trucks and glass shattered in every direction, but he knew he was still alive. While his entire truck was destroyed, save the driver’s seat, miraculously enough Whitby only suffered a few scratches.

“I’ve got two Band-Aids on my right ring finger,” Whitby told The Oregonian. “And a little bit of ice on my left eye.”

Another tractor-trailer came down the same curve moments later and struck the guardrail after seeing the massive pileup. Had he continued on and hit the truck in front of him, it would have further sandwiched Whitby, likely with fatal results. Instead, professional driving and a little bit of luck allowed Whitby.

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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