9 Mind Blowing Near Death Wilderness Survival Stories

Accidents can come out of nowhere. No one can predict when or where it could happen and how it can affect the lives of those involved.

Because of this, people do preparations to avoid the worst thing that nature, wrong decisions, and bad timing can do.

However, you cannot avoid every mishap; the best you can do is to deal with whatever challenge that comes your way.

Some calamities may seem impossible to get out of alive or unscathed. Surprisingly, some people managed to escape gruesome endings and lived to tell their insane and near death stories of survival.

Whether it’s because of sheer luck, great survivalist skills, or determination to live, these guys were lucky to get that refreshing experience of seeing the beauty of the world the second time around.

Quick Navigation

  1. Frane Selak: The World's Luckiest Unluckiest Man
     A. Seven Stories Of Survival
  2. Anatoli Bugorski: Half Forever Young
     A. The Side Effects Of Particle Accelerator Beam
  3. Roy Sullivan: Mr. Lightning
     A. Early Lightning Encounters
     B. Running Away From Lightning
     C. Death
  4. Joe Simpson: Fell From A Cliff
     A. Touching The Void
  5. Truman Duncan: Halved by a Train
  6. Aron Ralston: 127 Hours
     A. Self Amputation And Rescue
  7. Robert Evans: Hit Twice in Day
  8. Mauro Prosperi: The Sahara Nightmare
     A. Surviving The Desert
  9. Harrison Okene: The Man Who Lived Underwater
     A. How Did Okene Survive?

#1 – Frane Selak: The World’s Luckiest Unluckiest Man

Image: Express.co.uk

Some say luck favors your side when you survive a deadly accident. But will you still call it luck if you encounter more mischances that can be lethal?

It seems very confusing, especially for the journalists who dubbed the multiple survivor Frane Selak as the world’s luckiest unluckiest man.

Seven Stories Of Survival

Croatian music teacher Frane Selak started to deal with death in January 1962 while riding a train to Dubrovnik. The train flipped and crashed in the icy cold river. Luckily, someone pulled Selak’s arm and brought him to safety while seventeen others drowned and died.

After a year, Selak took his first ever plane from Zagreb to Rijeka when another unforeseen incident happened.

The door of the cockpit got torn off and he got launched out of the plane. This freak accident killed 19 people but the lucky Selak landed on a haystack. He woke up days later in the hospital and only had minor injuries.

The third death encounter happened in 1970. Selak was driving his car when it suddenly caught fire. Fortunately, he quickly jumped off before the fire reached his car’s fuel tank. After three years, his car caught fire again and this time, it got him. He lost most of his hair as the fire went through the air vent but he still came out alive.

In 1995, Selak got hit by a bus. Luckily, Selak only sustained minor injuries. The following year, he learned that his misadventures showed no signs of letting up – this time he drove off a guardrail to avoid an oncoming truck. His car crashed on a tree and he watched it go down in flames.

Selak’s life does not only revolve around unlucky events. In 2003, just two days after his 73rd birthday, the Croatian teacher won 800,000 euros (US $1,100,000) in the lottery. He bought two houses and a boat with the prize money. In 2010, he gave away the remaining money to his friends and relatives and decided to live a frugal life.

#2 – Anatoli Bugorski: Half Forever Young

What will happen if someone gets hit by a powerful particle beam in the face? Most probably, it will penetrate through the head and the person will die.

However, the story of Russian scientist and researcher Anatoli Bugorski says otherwise. Instead of death, the particle beam kept half of his face youthful-looking for many years now.

Synchotron U-70, the largest Soviet particle accelerator, serves as Bugorski’s workplace. In July 13, 1978, while checking a malfunctioning piece of equipment, he stuck his head where the photon beam runs.

He then saw a light described as “a light brighter than a thousand suns.” Although he didn’t feel anything, the beam (measuring 2,000 gray) entered Bugorski’s head; it measured 3,000 gray when it exited at his face. Absorbing 5 grays could lead to death within 14 days. No one has experienced radiation at a speed of light except Bugorski.

sportsmans warehouse

stories of survival - anatoli bugorski

Image: Mentalfloss.com

The Side Effects Of The Particle Accelerator Beam

The left half of Bugorski’s face became worn out and hard to recognize. His face started peeling off after several days. Also, the proton beam destroyed parts of his face, facial bones, and tissues of brain underneath.

Bugorski went to Moscow to ask for help from the experts. Although his brain received damage, his intellectual capacity remained the same. He lost his hearing in the left ear and the left half of his face became paralyzed. Other side effects included occasional absence seizures and tonic-clonic seizures but these did not occur immediately after the incident.

The most shocking side effect of the proton beam shot looks obvious on the left side of his face. Although the right side of his face showed wrinkles, the left part appeared frozen for many years – it did not age at all. The proton beam seemed to work better.

#3 – Roy Sullivan: Mr. Lightning

The number seven is considered as a lucky number for some people; however, Shenandoan ranger Roy Sullivan would say otherwise. From 1942-1977, this man got struck seven times by lightning in different occasions and survived. It appeared that the lightning is attracted to him. Because of near death stories of survival, he received the nicknames “Human Lightning Rod” and “Human Lightning Conductor”.

No one witnessed how he got struck by lightning but accounts claimed they saw the aftermath. The Guinness Book Of World Records verified the incidents and awarded Sullivan as the person with the “Most lightning strikes survived”.

roy sullivan

Image: Lazerhorse.org

Early Lightning Encounters

The first brush with lightning took place in 1942 while Sullivan was hiding from a thunderstorm in a fire lookout tower. Because the newly built tower had no lightning rod at the time, the tower got hit seven or eight times by lightning. The event set the building on fire and when Sullivan ran out, he got hit by what he considered the worst lightning strike he has ever experienced.

In 1969, while driving his truck, the bolt greeted Sullivan in a weird, unusual way. The lightning hit the nearby trees and it bounced into his open window. A year later, the third lightning hit him when it deflected from a nearby transformer. The lightning burst and seared his shoulder,

Running Away From Lightning

In 1972, his hair caught fire when the fourth lightning struck him during his duty as a Shenandoan National Park ranger. Because of this incident, he suspected an unknown force trying to obliterate him. This thought scared him so he began taking extra care whenever he gets caught in a storm. He also thought that the lightning would strike him even if he stood in a place full of people. Since then, he kept a can of water with him.

According to Sullivan, when he saw the storm coming, he quickly drove away but it seemed like the clouds are following him. When the ranger thought he finally got away and went out of his car, the fifth lightning surprised him as it struck his head directly, burning his hair off. He rushed to his vehicle and poured water on his head (from the can he was often carrying).

The sixth lightning strike occurred in August 7, 1973. Poor Roy Sullivan recounted that a storm cloud followed him; he ran away but still got struck. The last lightning encounter happened in 1977 while he was fishing for trouts. He got sent to the hospital due to chest and stomach burns.


Roy Sullivan endured all these lightning strikes; surprisingly, he died from a gun shot to the head that he inflicted himself. Official records say that Sullivan committed suicide over unrequited love.

#4 – Joe Simpson: Fell From A Cliff

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates became the first climbers to ever set foot on the west peak of the Siula Grande. While descending the mountain, Simpson accidentally broke his right leg and heel.

To climb down the mountain, Yates tied Simpson with him so that he can lower Simpson in stages. While Yates is lowering his climbing partner to an unseen cliff, the rope snagged which left him with the decision to cut the rope that connects him and Simpson.

stories of survival - joe simpson siula grandeImage: Telegraph.co.uk

Joe fell from a height of 150 feet. Assuming that his partner died in the fall, Yates went back to the camp.

Despite falling from 150 feet high into a crevasse, Simpson did not die. When he assumed he will suffer his last breath, he took an act of suicide by rappelling further into a deep crack. He then managed to get out of the cracks with a ledge. For almost four days, the unfortunate mountaineer crawled five miles until he reached the base camp.

Touching The Void

Because of a misleading article, many people criticized Yates for cutting the rope. However, Joe did not agree and defended Yates vehemently saying that he will also cut the rope if he faced the same situation.

Joe Simpson wrote the best-selling book Touching The Void, which tells his story about the Siula Grande climb. Almost two million copies were sold worldwide. After he recovered from his injuries, Simpson continued his mountaineering but shifted to a new career – a motivational speaker in many global corporate events.

#5 – Truman Duncan – Halved by Train

Truman Duncan had a job as a railroad switchman. One day, he accidentally fell off the front of a moving rail car which cut him in half. Duncan lost both legs and a kidney, but survived the gruesome accident.

When confronted with this situation, most people would have passed out. However, Duncan remained alert and managed to hang the train. The rail car dragged him from 75 feet as his legs remain entangled in the wheels with one single muscle still attached to his waist. The grinding of every fiber of his body left him in excruciating pain.

When it stopped, he reached his phone and called the 911. It took 45 minutes before the rescuers came. Although Duncan got cut in half, he stayed awake and even called his family while waiting. In an interview, he said that he didn’t think of dying during the accident.

Hospital surgeons spent three and a half hours to save the life of the father of three. He underwent twenty three more surgeries before he got out of the hospital.

Duncan continued working for the same railway company while wheelchair-bound. He’s currently trying to learn the use of prosthetic limbs to help himself walk around.

#6 – Aron Ralston: 127 Hours

stories of survival - aron ralston

Image: Telegraph.co.uk

Aron Ralston went on a solo hiking trip in Blue John Canyon back in 2003. A boulder crushed and trapped his right forearm. In the movie 127 hours (starring James Franco as Aron Ralston), he knew the trouble he was facing after realizing he did not inform anyone of his trip. He had no way to call for help.

To survive, he rationed his remaining 350 ml of water by slowly sipping small amounts for five days. He also extended his two burritos by slowly eating them. While worrying about food, he made a lot of attempts to free his arm by lifting and breaking the 800-lb stone.

Desperate to get out, he prepared to amputate his trapped arm and made experiments with tourniquets. On the fourth day, he realized that he would need to cut through the bones but he was not carrying the tool that will help him to do so.

When he ran out of food and water on the fifth day, he decided to drink his own urine. Poor Ralston carved his name, date of birth, and date of death into the boulder. He also videotaped his final message to his family. That night, he expected to breathe his last.

Self Amputation And Rescue

He didn’t expect to wake up the next day. When he opened his eyes at dawn, an epiphany came to him – if he used a torque, he could break the radius and ulna bones of his right arm. He did this with a multi-tool including a dull two-inch knife. Enduring the pain, he rappelled down a 20-meter sheer wall and hiked out of the canyon.

Ralston’s car was parked eight miles away from his location. Luckily, he met a family of hikers who gave him food and water. Meanwhile, his worried family narrowed down their search to the Canyon lands and flew there by helicopter. His family rescued him four hours later. The timing was a huge help in saving his life.

It took thirteen men, a wince, and a hydraulic jack to retrieve the amputated hand from the boulder. Ralston received the cremated hand and he scattered the ashes in the exact area where he got trapped, saying that it’s the place where his arm belongs.

#7 – Robert Evans: Hit Twice in a Day

This is a story about a patient who rode two ambulances in one night. And no, he did not get transferred.

Robert Evans, a 46-year old homeless guy, fell victim to a hit and run accident. While he was walking on his way home from a hospital who attended to his injuries, he got hit by a train, which sent him flying into a creek.

Luckily, he survived his second accident. The authorities reported that Evans took a hit from the railing of a stairway on the side of the train. The railroad can only accommodate the train tracks, not pedestrians.

#8 – Mauro Prosperi: The Sahara Nightmare

stories of survival - prosperi sahara nightmare

Image: BBC.co.uk

Mauro Prosperi, an athlete and an Italian policeman, got lost in the Sahara Desert during the Marathon of the Sands event in Morocco.

In 1994, Prosperi and his cousin participated in a six-day 233 kilometer event. Halfway through, a sandstorm occurred, causing him to lose his way. Disoriented, Prosperi ran towards the wrong direction – into Algeria.

Surviving The Desert

Prosperi ran out of supplies after 24 hours. He reached an abandoned Muslim temple which served as one of his stops. The lost runner drank his pee to keep himself hydrated. Soon he found some bats hanging upside down in the temple.

To survive, he decapitated the heads of the bats, drank the blood, and ate the innards. A helicopter plane flew by but unfortunately, the crew did not see him.

He went on to cross the desert hoping he could find an oasis or a town. Prosperi tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrist with his pen knife. However, due to dehydration, his blood thickened and the wound just clotted.

This failed attempt left him with no choice but to continue feeding on insects, cacti, and snakes he found along the way. He soon found an oasis with some people who provided milk and shade.

Prosperi wandered the desert again and after nine days, Algerian officers found and took him to a military camp, and then to a hospital. His misadventure covers a total distance of 186 miles off the route and it cost him 18 kilograms.

The incident made him famous among Italians, runners, and those who participate in hardcore marathons. Prosperi received a hero’s welcome and got swarmed by a lot of media. The National Geographic Channel documentary featured Prosperi’s story with a title, “Expeditions to the Edge: Sahara Nightmare.” Discovery Channel TV also told about Prosperi’s near death survival stories.

#9 – Harrison Okene: The Man Who Lived Underwater

Harrison Okene had an adventure as the cook of SS Poseidon. The Nigerian sailor spent a few days underwater – depending on an air bubble for survival. A few days after the incident, the lone survivor decided to tell everyone about his ordeal.

In May 26, 2013, Okene unexpectedly turned into a survivalist. On the morning of that day, their ship got caught into a sudden ocean swell while he was inside the bathroom. The speed sank the ship quickly. However, before that happened, Okene found a small pocket of air in an engineer’s office. With total darkness and no food, water, and oxygen, his survival chance is at zero percent.

stories of survival - harrison okene

When South African divers arrived to recover the bodies, Okene did not leave his air pocket for fear of getting stabbed by a frightened rescuer. Who would expect to find someone alive in a sunken ship sitting at the bottom of the sea for days? He just touched one person from the recovery team and held his hand up.

How Did Okene Survive?

Science explained the numerous coincidences and great luck which kept Okene alive. The lack of oxygen, deep sea predators, drowning, and hypothermia could kill him.

According to the survivor, he found a bottle of Coca-cola and a vest with two flashlights attached. Also, he avoided hypothermia by making use of a mattress he used as a platform which kept most of his body above the water level.

With the amount of oxygen in an air pocket, Okene can survive for two and a half days. But with a dangerous amount of carbon dioxide as he exhales, he should not last for more than two days. Okene’s splashing of the water prevented carbon dioxide from filling up the air pocket (since water absorbs carbon dioxide), thus maintaining enough oxygen in the air pocket.

After a few days, the rescue team took him to safety. It was only then that he found out that all of his mates had died.

Final Thoughts

After reading these harrowing stories, we hope you gained something.  It’s good to share survival tales as they can be drawn on from memory to inspire and motivate those found in their own survival situation. Survival stories are also valuable because they can teach specific survival techniques that were used in real live scenarios.  Let us know if you have your own survival story to share.



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