Compiled By Michael D’Angona, Adelaide Farah & Matthew Hogan
Surfer Escapes Great White: Surfing champ fights off shark during competition!
South Africa’s waters are among the most shark infested in the world. A swimmer was killed by a great white shark at Albatross Point close to Jeffreys Bay in 2013. Three-time world surfing title winner Mick Fanning had the biggest challenge of his life when he was competing in the South African J-Bay Open. During the event, the 34-year-old surfer was suddenly attacked by a shark—on live television.
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“I just had this instinct that something was behind me,” Fanning told the World Surf League website. “And then all of a sudden, I felt like I started getting pulled under water. Then the [shark] came up…”
Fanning was still attached to his board and used it as a barrier between himself and the shark, also punching the shark in the back to try and escape. “I felt like it was dragging me under water,” Fanning recalled. “[But] then my leg rope broke, and I started swimming and screaming.”
As he wondered if the shark would attack again, rescue personnel on jet skis arrived to pull him out of the water. “I just couldn’t believe it,” Fanning said during an appearance on NBC’s The Today Show. “To walk away without a scratch on me. I’m having an emotional and mental trauma right now. It was a near-death experience.”
After discussions with both finalists (Fanning and Julian Wilson), the World Surf League canceled the remainder of the competition. Fanning and Wilson received second-place points and shared the prize money.
World Surf League Commissioner Kieren Perrow believes Fanning’s experience was the first time a surfer had been attacked during a competition. “It’s shaken everyone. We’re so happy to see him safe and alive.”
Earthquakes on Everest: Survival instincts and prep save two American climbers during Nepal’s devastating earthquake.
In April 2015, thousands of people lost their lives while thousands more were injured in a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and its surrounding areas. Powerful aftershocks were felt in the following weeks, causing more devastation and death.
Although their circumstances during the earthquake were independent of one another, Katharine Atto of Michigan and Andy Land from Wisconsin both share vivid memories of their intense fear as Mother Nature let loose her full fury.
Atto came to Nepal to climb Mount Everest with her friend. Her friend unfortunately fell ill from altitude sickness while climbing and was flown home. The very next day, Atto was enjoying lunch when the lodge building began to shake. What first seemed routine, as constant small quakes hit the area regularly, turned dangerous as the quakes became stronger and the destruction became more widespread. To escape being injured by falling objects or even a roof collapse, Atto ran outside of the café. “It felt like we were standing on an unbalanced washing machine the way the earth moves under your feet.”
After the initial quake, she experienced several aftershocks that night preventing her from any sleep. She recalled, “Every time, I would jump up and cower in my doorframe between the bathroom and bedroom, hoping nothing fell.” Luckily afterwards she was able to secure seats at the local airport and made it back to Michigan, shaken but safe. “It wasn’t until you see these people wrapped in bandages, bloody and missing limbs—it didn’t hit home…how bad this earthquake was.”
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Andy Land also had a life-changing experience near Mt. Everest, but in his case he was actually climbing on the mountain when the quake hit. Land was 20,000 feet up on the mountain when the earthquake triggered massive avalanches.
“The ice is shaking. It is knocking us up and down. We are hearing the avalanche is coming. There is nothing to do. You are waiting in your tent to find out if you’re going to die,” he recalled to reporters from the Associated Press.
Thankfully, Land and his team were prepared and had sufficient food and supplies to survive up to five days. The group was rescued by helicopter two days after the quake, but the base camp was totally destroyed. A hospice nurse, Land used his experience to comfort those in distress. After this life-changing ordeal, Land learned a valuable lesson that he would like to pass on to everyone: “The idea that we never know how close we may be, that life can and does change very quickly, should help us live as fully as possible every single day.”
Backwoods Moose Standoff: Biker escapes enraged, charging moose on rural Montana trail.
A casual bike ride on a mountain trail near Bozeman, Montana, turned disastrous for Brian Steddum when he came face to face with an enraged moose caring for her young calf. Steddum decided that if he chose to leave his bike and run, the moose would surely catch him. The thought to stay there, curl up and play dead was also not an option, so he had only one choice—to trust in his biking skills and ride past the moose.
The mother nudged the calf towards a nearby creek and then began to advance. Steddum swerved to the side but was unable to avoid a collision with the moose’s head. He felt the animal’s nostrils make contact with his body as well as a kick from the moose that ejected him off his bike and onto the hard ground. Steddum didn’t stay down for long. In an instant he hopped back on his bike and raced down the trail as fast as possible.
When he reached his car, he felt a terrible pain throughout his forearm, but that didn’t prevent him from driving himself to a nearby hospital for medical attention. X-rays revealed his ulna bone was broken in half. He may also need surgery to fully fix the broken bone. However, this whole experience will not deter him from continuing his trail riding.
Helmet Saves Rock Climber: New Hampshire man defies death after 50-foot fall!
Whether you’re riding a bike, skiing or rock climbing, when you’re participating in an activity where a helmet is suggested, it’s always a good idea to wear it. A 25-year-old man from Somerville, Massachusetts, may have saved his own life when he put his helmet on before rock climbing in New Hampshire recently.
Nicholas Mozdzierz was leading a climb on Cathedral Ledge in North Conway, according to New Hampshire Fish and Game. He was in an area known as the North End when he began having trouble with the route. He attempted to climb down but fell approximately 50 feet.
“The force of his fall was so strong that it caused his top two pieces of protection to fail and he ultimately landed on the ground,” the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department reported.
The fall caused Mozdzierz to initially lose consciousness. However, he eventually came to and was transported by North Conway Fire Department to a local hospital for treatment. According to New Hampshire Fish and Game, Mozdzierz did not suffer any life-threatening injuries.
Rock and Ice magazine reported that Mozdzierz’s belayer suffered rope burns on both hands. “The palm of his left hand was gouged and the fingers of his right were burned from the second joint up.”
It is unknown whether or not Mozdzierz’s fall was due to equipment failure or belayer error, but his life was surely saved thanks to his helmet.
Many gear-makers stress the importance of taking safety precautions when participating in potentially dangerous activities like climbing and mountaineering. Using the hashtag #HelmetsMatter, climbing-gear-maker Petzl in particular encourages the active community to share their stories to continue the conversation around the risks and rewards of consistently wearing a helmet.
Wildland Plane Crash: Washington teen survives a hellish plane wreck!
After a plane carrying Leland and Sharon Bowman of Marion, Montana, and their step-granddaughter, Autumn Veatch, crossed the Idaho-Washington border, the plane, piloted by Leland, hit a cloud bank. When the clouds parted, Autumn could see a mountain and trees ahead. Leland tried to pull up but failed. The plane crashed into the trees, hit the ground and dropped off the radar near Omak, Washington.
Sixteen-year-old Autumn, returning from a Montana visit, was bruised by the impact of the crash and singed by the fire that accompanied the accident. Fearing an explosion and realizing she couldn’t help her step-grandparents, who had perished in the crash, the teenager headed to a steep slope down the mountain, where she found a creek that led to a river. After drinking small amounts of water from the river, she spent the night on a sandbar.
A search-and-rescue mission for Autumn was complicated by the crash site’s mountainous terrain. She credits the survival shows she watched with her father with helping save her life. Autumn remembered about the shows’ tips to follow a stream if lost, so she walked along the river to a trail, and that led her to Highway 20 near the east entrance to the North Cascades National Park.
Rescue missions had been unsuccessful until Autumn was spotted by two motorists who stopped and picked her up. They brought her to the safety of a general store in the small town of Mazama. An employee of the general store, who is also an EMT, confirmed that the teen was suffering from dehydration.
The teen survivor was taken to Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster, Washington, where it was determined that Autumn had suffered no life-threatening injuries.
“It’s a miracle, no question about it,” noted Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Lustick of the Civil Air Patrol to KOMO News. “Moments of joy like this can be hard to find.”
40 Hours In The Woods: Crash survivor’s dog kept victim alive until help arrived!
Joseph Phillips-Garcia was traveling with some family members and a friend when their truck suddenly slipped off the road and rolled down an embankment into the woods, according to Purina’s website. Joseph recalled, “I didn’t really know what was going on. It went black after that.”
Joseph and his dog, Sako, were thrown from the vehicle. His aunt, cousin and friend, unfortunately, did not survive the crash. Unable to move due to a broken leg and collarbone, Joseph would also have surely perished if not for the protection and surprisingly “human-like” assistance from his canine companion.
The dog provided Joseph some of the basics of survival that are essential for anyone stranded out in the cold, harsh wilderness. To stay warm, Sako laid on top of the teen, providing shared body heat that helped to fend off possible hypothermia. The dog also dragged pieces of wood closer to the boy, enabling him to make a sustained fire using a lighter that he had in his pocket. To avoid dehydration, the dog amazingly dragged the teen closer to a nearby creek so he could drink some water to help keep his body functioning properly.
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As hours passed, coyotes and other predators from the surrounding areas came to investigate the crash area, putting Joseph at risk of becoming their prey. Sako was fearless and protected his teen friend by intercepting their advances and aggressively fighting the animals until they backed off and retreated into the woods.
“He came back. He only had a bite mark on his neck. That was it,” Joseph said about his fearless friend.
For 40 long hours, Sako would not leave the teen’s side and kept alert for anything that could harm Joseph. Eventually, Joseph’s cousin found them both after non-stop searching.
Joseph said of his ordeal, “I don’t really understand my part of surviving, but a part of it was Sako.” Sako was honored for his heroics by Purina and inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame.
Trooper Escapes Highway Crash: Oklahoma trooper hit by high-speed driver during traffic stop.
Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every single day. While most people envision shootouts with a crazed gunman or high-speed chases, it was something much more common that nearly killed Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) Trooper Gary Sanders in March 2015.
Sanders was conducting a routine traffic stop on Oklahoma’s Highway 183 when his car was rear-ended by a truck. Sanders had returned to his car to write a ticket when the truck hit his cruiser at 68 miles per hour, Oklahoma’s News 9 reported. The impact from the crash pushed Sanders’ cruiser into the traffic violator’s car in front of him, trapping him for nearly 40 minutes.
The result of the crash was severe for Sanders, who spent three days in a coma. On top of that, “Sanders broke his pelvis, nose, teeth, six ribs and seven vertebrae. The crash also separated his small and big intestine, as well as his colon, and lacerated his spleen. He lost more than 50 pounds,” News 9 reported.
This type of accident has killed more than 200 law enforcement officers since 1999, according to Move Over America, an organization prompting laws across the country to protect the lives of officers on the road. The “Move Over Law” was implemented in Oklahoma in 2003. Additional awareness is being promoted locally by programs like Nick’s Promise, an initiative created by Barry Dees in honor of his brother, Trooper Nick Dees, who was struck and killed back in January by a distracted driver while assisting in a highway accident. Visit moveoverfor731.com to learn more about education on the dangers of distracted driving.
Three months after the accident, Sanders is still on the road to recovery, but the 52-year-old trooper is grateful to have walked away with his life.
“I know I can get back there eventually. It’s just going to take time,” Trooper Sanders told KFOR 4 in Oklahoma. “I just got the will to survive. I’m not a quitter. Quit is not in my vocabulary.”
Couple Defies Home Invaders: Florida woman turns the tables on violent attackers!
It was a quiet August night. Susan Gonzalez was on her couch waiting for her son to return home while her husband, Mike, was fast asleep in their new home in Jacksonville, Florida. Suddenly, at 12:40 a.m., two armed intruders kicked in their door, gloves on their hands, masks covering their faces and guns ready to fire.
Susan ran away and made it to her bedroom, but the bedroom door was broken in half as the intruders fired in. Susan was shot in her chest. Mike, meanwhile, struggled with the intruders to keep them out of the bedroom while Susan remained injured inside. But Susan still had some fight in her. She managed to call 911 and explain what was going on while Mike fought the intruders in the living room.
Her husband had a pistol in the house for self-defense and recreational use. Seeing an opportunity to grab it, Susan took the safety off and cocked the gun. Still bleeding, she maneuvered through her home until she had a clear shot at one of the intruders. She shot the attacker in the back, stopping him immediately.
Mike continued to struggle with the second intruder when a gun was placed against his side and fired. He would be shot a second time during the incident, though neither he nor Susan could remember when. Meanwhile, Susan tried to shoot the second intruder but was out of bullets. As she retreated, she was wounded again, taking a second bullet to the chest.
While the first intruder stumbled out of the house and died in the front yard, the second suspect fled in the couple’s truck. He was eventually captured by authorities. Susan and Mike both survived the horrifying experience, but it’s still something that Susan lives with every single day.
“I have a conscience and deal even today with taking a human life, even in self-defense,” she said.
Despite having to take a life, it was Susan’s calm thinking and quick action that allowed her and her husband to survive the terrifying ordeal.
Teen Survives Flash Flood: Fifteen-year-old boy clings to a tree branch to stay alive.
Flash floods are unexpected, quick and powerful, which is exactly what makes them so dangerous. As Demarcus Jackson, a 15-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, found out, they often bring walls of water 10 to 20 feet high.
Jackson was swimming in a creek with his brother and a friend when the current picked up because of a torrential downpour in the area. While his brother and friend were able to escape, Jackson was swept away by the fast-moving current.
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Search-and-rescue efforts ensued but were suspended that night due to the rising water levels and strong current, which made conditions nearly impossible for divers. Early the next morning, two residents who lived in the same neighborhood where Jackson was swept away went down into the concrete basin to search for the teen. By that point, floodwaters had completely subsided. After a brief search, the two residents spotted Jackson walking out from underneath a tunnel and contacted authorities, who were just beginning their own official search efforts.
But how did Jackson survive the night? According to multiple media outlets, the teen spent most of the night clinging to a tree branch, which helped keep him above the fast-moving current. Local police said that Jackson was found in “good health,” as he only suffered a few minor cuts.
“Flash flood warnings are issued for a reason. It’s because things are bad and things are going to happen,” Peoria Police Captain Mike Scally told Peoria Public Radio after Jackson was found to be safe.
Couple Lasts Six Days in Woods: Lost hikers saved by off-trail shelter and backwoods nav skills.
One wrong turn is all it takes to get lost in the seemingly endless woods. For Ontario’s Rick Moynan and Lynne Carmody, this fear became a reality for six full days.
In June 2015, the two arrived at the Cathedral Lakes Lodge near Keremeos, British Columbia, to enjoy some hiking and take in the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The next morning they set out for a day hike—and that’s when they made their huge mistake.
“We left the trail and within hours we were nowhere near where we were supposed to be and were totally lost in a thick, wooded area,” they explained in a later statement.
The couple, however, kept a very level head during the ordeal and used basic survival thinking to help them through the entire experience. They understood that as daylight began to disappear, constructing a shelter was an absolute must. They also kept themselves steadily hydrated and found it wise to move to higher ground to become more visible to search helicopters.
On day six they changed their “stay put” mentality and decided that the next morning they were going to attempt to walk back to the lodge. Again executing basic survival skills, they used the position of the sun to plan their route and tracked its path in the sky to stay on their planned course. After eight and a half hours, they reached the lodge relatively unharmed and in good spirits.
“We will always appreciate the beauty of this area, the mountains and the amazing hiking, but we now recognize to be safe hikers we need to be properly prepared,” said the couple, “We have learned a valuable lesson….”
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This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE™ Winter 2016 edition. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.