3 People Who Miraculously Survived The Impossible


#1

You know when you’re a kid, and dad buys you an ice cream on a hot day? Well, Norman Ollestad’s father of the same name was little different. On a hot day, Mr. Ollestad would take his son on his back surfing to cool him down… at the age of 1.

This was in between deep-sea fishing adventures, jungle safaris, barreling down expert ski slopes, and just generally being an absolute boss by the time he was 4 years old.

Tragically, their time together as father and son was much shorter than most. In early 1979, the Ollestad’s, along with Ollestad, Sr.’s girlfriend Sandra and the pilot, were flying a Cessna over the mountain ranges en route to Big Bear Mountain when a blizzard caught the plane in its grip and threw it into the side of a mountain at 2600 metres above sea level.

The pilot and Ollestad, Sr. were killed on impact, Sandra suffered a concussion and a dislocated shoulder, and 11-year-old Ollestad, Jr. had several minor injuries. The two of them waited patiently for the rescue helicopters, only to watch them soar right over their heads without spotting them and continue on into the horizon.

Without so much as a pair of gloves, Ollestad carry-dragged Sandra behind him as he started his agonizing descent down the intense mountainscape. At some point during the initial hours, Sandra slipped and young Ollestad had to watch her plummet to her death.

Saving his grieving for later, Ollestad put on a brave face and continued down the mountain by himself, dangling by his fingertips at some points. Once he reached a spot where the ground had panned out to something a little less vertical, Ollestad found himself a couple of straight-ish tree branches and SKIED… DOWN… THE REST OF THE MOUNTAIN.

How is this possible, you ask? Well it probably shouldn’t be. But nevertheless, Ollestad used the branches as ski poles and nothing but his own two shoes as skis. Now that’s a pro. Remember, this is after hours of difficult climbing without any food or water as well as the mental image of your dead father, his dead girlfriend, and a dead pilot… oh yeah, and you’re 11 years old.

Nine hours after the plane crash, young Normal Ollestad reached the bottom of the mountain and made his way to the closest town. The media were all over him for a while and he published a book on the experience a few years later.

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#2

This incredible tale will have you rethinking what the safest hurricane emergency procedure actually is – why take cover or tie yourself down to the ground and risk having a car or an entire house land on top of you and crush you to death, when you could actually ride the hurricane out?

After all, if you’re whipping around the hurricane at the same speed as all the other objects it’s picked up, they can’t slam into you, can they? It’s kind of like that mentality where if a really big wave is coming towards you at the beach, you’re better off swimming towards it and trying to get over it before it breaks than swim away and have it dump you.

Anyway, back to the story. 19-year-old Missourian Matt Suter was just hanging out in his grandma’s caravan one day back in 2006 when all of a sudden, the wind outside started to pick up. Just when Matt realized this wasn’t a normal storm and was getting off the couch to investigate, the door came off the hinges and the floor moved in a way that gave that same sensation as when an airplane’s wheels part with the tarmac.

As Matt was thrown around the caravan along with couches, televisions and various kitchen utensils (picture that scene from Anchorman 2 and you’ll get the idea… except maybe without the scorpion and bowling ball) one of the walls crumpled in on itself and disappeared into the dark abyss, at which point Matt was immediately sucked out of the caravan and thrown around in a pitch-black, groundless environment unlike anything 999,9999,999 in a billion of us could imagine (don’t quote me on those figures).

The next thing Matt remembers is waking up in a grassy field more than 400 metres away from where his grandma’s mobile home had been. Between his new spot and the spot where the hurricane picked him up was a tall barbed wire fence and considering the lack of lacerations he had on his body, he obviously cleared the fence no problem so he must have been quite high in the air.

The National Weather Service would later tell him that the hurricane had reached speeds of 240 kilometres an hour as it passed through the area, meaning Matt was astronomically lucky to be alive – not too many can be tossed 400 metres through the air at 240 kilometres an hour and literally dust themselves off and walk away afterwards.

According to the relevant authorities, Matt Suter still holds the record for the furthest “tornado ride” a human has ever survived Do you think rollercoasters have lost their thrill to him now?

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#3

It was the early hours of May 26, 2013 when Harrison Okene, a tugboat cook engaged to be married within the week, was stirred awake by the unusually heavy swell of the ocean that particularly night. Rubbing his eyes, he stumbled into his en suite and flicked on the light.

No sooner had he set foot inside his bathroom than the entire boat suddenly tipped upside down and Okene found himself sprawled on his own bathroom ceiling. Within moments, the boat was already a hundred feet below the ocean surface and dropping still.

A panicky Okene blindly made his way through the pitch-black corridors of the ship, already knee deep in icy cold seawater. Eventually he found a dim glow which led him to a few cans of Coca-Cola, a hammer, and some other “tools” – I use the term “tools” loosely as there aren’t too many tools that can get a man out of Okene’s current predicament.

Okene continued back out into the corridors, and all the while the seawater was rising rapidly. Somehow, Okene was able to find a 4-foot-tall air pocket in one of the cabins where the air couldn’t escape and therefore the water had stopped rising.

He stacked mattresses on the water in an attempt to keep himself dry so he wouldn’t freeze to death (much like Jack Dawson in Titanic because Rose was too selfish to scoot over and let him on that gigantic door!) and did his best to breathe lightly so he wouldn’t burn through all the oxygen and suffocate on the carbon dioxide.

But no matter how lightly he breathed; Okene knew he only had a handful of hours to live before his oxygen supply ran out. And that was if the sharks and barracudas didn’t get him first – he could hear them through the walls as they tore his dead shipmates apart.

Needless to say, this didn’t help with the light breathing, and Okene should have been dead within six hours.

And yet, 62 hours later, a diver from the recovery team nearly got a heart attack when he swam into the cabin to find Harrison Okene alive and well. Come to think of it, they probably nearly gave each other a heart attack, as having a diver swim into your four-foot air pocket 100 metres below the ocean surface after 62 hours alone would be just as terrifying.

The diver returned with equipment for the miraculous survivor and a decompression chamber was set up to help him to the surface safely. Just to clarify, the diver had to use the decompression chamber too – because divers generally only swim to those kinds of extreme depths for 20 minutes at a time before it affects their health, let alone 62 hours.

So how did Orkene survive down there for so long? Well, he can thank a little equation known as “Boyle’s Law” for that one. This law explains that gases get denser as atmospheric pressure increases. Considering how much pressure that air pocket was under, the oxygen was a lot denser than normal and this means it lasts longer.

Another factor of the law that saved Orkene’s life is that the icy cold water was actually consuming the poisonous carbon dioxide Orkene was exhaling. Lucky, huh? I can’t imagine the maritime cook will be hanging out in any enclosed spaces like elevators any time soon!

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