Death is unstoppable. It inevitably comes for us all in the end, its approach inexorable, sometimes shambling towards us and stalking us as we grow old and sick, and sometimes lunging at us to snatch us away. We avoid it, we run from it, but ultimately we cannot hide from it. Yet sometimes, there have been those who have managed to cheat death somehow, if only for a while, miraculously escaping its clutches in the most dramatic of ways to live another day. There are numerous stories of people who have managed to cheat death, and these stories are usually held up as true miracles, but yet sometimes there are times when it seems like death does not want to be cheated, and it circles around again to come for these "lucky" individuals. In some cases, people avoid one disaster to remain safe and cheat death, only for death to defiantly come back around and settle up, as if part of some grand plan. It would seem that even if one is able to avoid death's cold grip, sometimes your time is just your time, no matter what you do.
On May 31, 2009, Johanna Ganthaler and her husband were vacationing in Brazil and were scheduled to fly on Air France Flight 447 to fly to Paris and head home, but they missed it. At the time, the couple was frustrated and resigned themselves to extending their stay in Brazil one more day, but what might have been an eye-opener for them was the tragic news that would soon hit. It would turn out that Flight 447 had been hit by a series of storm clouds and experienced technical difficulties that had sent it plummeting into the ocean to kill all 228 people aboard, two fewer than would have been dead if they hadn't missed that flight. For Ganthaler and her husband, it must have felt like a freak stroke of luck, maybe even a miracle, but it wasn’t to last. The next day they flew back to Europe and rented a car to go home, but they would never make it. Along the way, they swerved into the oncoming lane as a truck barreled towards them to hit them practically head on, killing Ganthaler and seriously injuring her husband.
A similar close call followed by tragedy was experienced by 21-year-old Jessica de Lima Rohl, of Brazil. In 2013, she had been working to put together a huge party at a nightclub, something she had been planning for months and looking forward to going to with her boyfriend. On the evening of the actual party, her boyfriend, perhaps sensing something was wrong, implored Jessica to let them stay home, which they did, missing the big bash she had worked so hard on. At the party itself, fireworks were set off, and one of them ignited highly flammable acoustic foam. The resulting fire that engulfed the nightclub would kill or injure hundreds of partygoers, so staying home likely saved Jessica’s life. However, just a few days later she was driving with her boyfriend after picking him up from work, when a truck suddwnly veered into their lane to hit them, killing Jessica instantly and leaving her boyfriend with wounds he succumbed to not long after.
Yet another case of a person avoiding one tragedy only to come up against another is that of a sports broadcaster from Denver, Colorado, by the name of Jessica Ghawi, also known as Jessica Redfield. On June 2, 2012, Ghawi was in Toronto, Canada, and that afternoon she visited the Urban Eatery food court at the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall. Although she usually ate indoors at the food court, on this day she had an “odd feeling,” and felt compelled to go eat outside instead. Mere minutes after she went outside, 23-year-old Christopher Husbands entered the food court and started indiscriminately shooting shoppers. When the gunfire stopped, seven people had been shot, two fatally, with numerous others injured in the panicked rush to escape. Ghawi was safe outside and came away unscathed. Rather spookily, although she dodged this potential death, Redfield would be shot and killed in another mass shooting seven weeks later, when a James Holmes set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms at a theatre in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight, ending with the tragic deaths of 12 people and dozens more injured, at the time the largest number of victims in one shooting in modern U.S. history.
Speaking of mass shootings, the deadliest one in the history of the United States happened on October 1, 2017, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from his 32nd-floor suites in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, in Las Vegas, Nevada, onto the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. Over the course of 10 minutes he would fire more than 1,000 high-powered rifle rounds upon the large crowd gathered there, killing 60 and wounding hundreds more. Among the people there that evening enjoying the concert was married couple Dennis and Lorraine Carver. During the attack, the couple managed to escape the carnage unharmed, with Dennis even using himself as a human shield to protect his wife as they fled. Two weeks later, Dennis and Lorraine lost control of their car and flew off the road and straight into some stone pillars, killing them. Another person at the concert was a Roy McClellan, who also came out unharmed but would die a month later when he was struck and killed by a car in a hit and run while hitchhiking.
These are pretty spooky cases indeed, but perhaps even spookier are those who have miraculously survived some perilous ordeal, only to have death come to snatch them away not long after. In 2016, an unnamed motorist was driving on Malibu Canyon Road, in Malibu, California, when he lost control of his SUV and went careening into the guardrail, which was the only thing between it and a steep cliff. The vehicle nearly went over, and teetered there on the edge threatening to go over at any moment. The driver was somehow able to get out of the vehicle unharmed, no doubt astonished that he had just narrowly avoided crashing to the rocks far below, but no sooner did he breathe a sigh of relief than he walked back to the road and was promptly hit by a passing bus in a freak accident. He was taken to a nearby hospital where he would end up dying from his injuries.
Perhaps even more harrowing is the case of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan, who in 2013 headed from her own country of China to California to attend a summer camp. She flew first to Korea, then boarded Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul, and the flight was pretty smooth and routine up until its final approach into San Francisco International Airport, after which things would get harrowing. The Boeing 777-200ER would come in too low and too slow, causing it to spectacularly crash on the runway, killing 2 right away and injuring 187, 49 of them seriously, in what would turn out to be the first fatal crash of a Boeing 777 in its service history. Ye Meng Yuan miraculously escaped major injuries, able to stumble out of the wreckage on her own, whereupon she lay on the ground to wait for help to arrive. Unfortunately for her, the rescuers would prove to be her doom, as a fire truck on its way to the scene ran over her and killed her, making her a third fatality in the crash.
In 2011, Bob Bickerdike was with some friends hot air ballooning in the French Alps. They were all in separate balloons in clear weather, but at some point things went wrong for Bob when his balloon was caught in a freak wind current and he smashed into the side of a mountain at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Incredibly, he survived this crash without any injuries, calling his friends to tell them he was OK. He then went about making his way down the mountain to safety, which he saw in some cottages about a half-mile from where he crashed. The trek mostly went without incident, yet as the cottages and his salvation loomed closer, he lost his footing on some icy terrain and slipped down into a deep ravine, where he would perish.
Such eerie cases have been recorded from land and sea as well. In February 2018, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake rocked Oaxaca, Mexico, to send people running out of their homes in a panic. In the months before, Mexico had been hit with several large earthquakes that had claimed hundreds of lives, but in his case, fast-thinking and a smooth evacuation meant that no one was killed. A group of survivors decided to camp out in a field, unwilling to risk going back to their badly damaged homes, but tragically a military helicopter coming in to help with rescue operations lost control and crashed into the crowd as it was trying to land, killing 14 people on the ground and injuring dozens more. In an eerie twist, only victims of the earthquake had been injured or died, and everyone on the helicopter was practically unscathed. In another natural disaster, in May of 2013, Moore, Oklahoma was hit by a massive and deadly tornado that destroyed wide swaths of houses and other buildings to leave the landscape strewn with debris and bodies. Among the lucky survivors was 5-year-old Ayden Evans and his family, who had miraculously been spared. Evan was moved to his aunt’s house in Jessieville, Arkansas while his family dealt with the wreckage left behind by the tornado and try to gather up the pieces of their lives. At some point, Evan threw a tantrum, and as the aunt tried to calm him down, her 150-lb bull mastiff suddenly and without warning attacked the boy, biting his head and neck and killing him.
In November of 2015, a 25-year-old single mother by the name of Brittany Leith was driving on her way home from a friend’s house along the Southern State Parkway near Exit 36, in Long Island, when her car hit a median and flipped over. Despite the spectacular flipping over of the vehicle, Leith was amazingly unhurt, and got out of the overturned car to get to safety by the side of the road. People at the scene who had stopped their own cars to help out were amazed that she was completely uninjured, and when Leith told them she was going to run back to her car to retrieve some of her belongings from the smashed vehicle, they begged her not to go. Leith didn’t listen, and while she was making her way across the highway a passing vehicle fatally struck her from behind.
Finally, we have a remarkable tale of courage and survival, of a man coming out of a long duel with death on top, only to have his life taken anyway. During the dark days of World War II, British seaman Roy Widdicombe was on a coal ship headed for Argentina when the vessel was attacked and sunk by a German war boat. Widdicombe and six other crew members somehow managed to escape the burning, sinking vessel and sneak past the enemy in a jolly boat, but their ordeal was just beginning. Over the next 70 days they would be stranded at sea, surviving off of whatever they could catch and braving the elements, four of them dying in the process. By the time Widdicombe and the other survivor were rescued, they were on death’s door, but they had managed to get through it. Widdicombe was brought to New York and nursed back to health, after which he was sent off on his way back to England. However, this time the Germans would finish the job they started, as the boat Widdicombe was on would be sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat, this time leaving no survivors. In such cases as we have looked at here it is quite eerie to think that these people were unable to escape their demise despite their seemingly good fortune at first. Were they just unlucky? Was this just random chance that managed to make sure they died so soon after they had narrowly escaped their deaths? Is it just dark coincidence, or is there something more to it, some sinister meaning pulsing in the background? In the end, we don't know, but we do know that it will come for us sooner or later.