We put a lot of faith in our airbags and our crumple zones, but it's often a matter of chance if we live or die in a wreck. These ten crashes, picked by Jalopnik readers, show the luckiest survivors of all.
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10.) Jari-Matti Latvala, Portugal 2009
Suggested By: C³ - Cool Cadillac Cat
How they made it: You see those giant cliffs they race around in rallying? This is what happens when a driver rolls nearly two dozen times down one on his birthday
9.) Stefan Eriksson, PCH 2006
Suggested By: Irving Washington
How he made it: Stefan "fat" Eriksson, the former head of Gizmondo, a handheld gaming device, crashed his Enzo in Malibu going 162 miles an hour down the Pacific Coast highway, while completely sauced. He split the car in half against a lamppost and walked away from the crash, just in time to spin a web of lies about the incident. The crash sparked an international investigation that sent him to jail for 18 months.
Photo Credit: Jalopnik
8.) Mike Harmon, Bristol 2002
Suggested By: BecauseLutzSaidSo
How he made it: Mike Harmon crashed during practice for the Busch series race at Bristol in '02. That impact alone was enough to tear his car in half, but then another car crashed into him, barely missing his exposed body. Safety cages saved him first, blind luck saved him second.
7.) Reader's RV Crash, 2004
Suggested By: cab591
How they made it: This was the gnarliest crash from any of the Jalopnik readers, where a swerving drunk driver crashed into the family's RV, rolling it while they slept inside. cab591 describes the crash where he woke up with his head inches from the asphalt.
August, 2004, my family (parents, two older brothers, and myself) were on our way back from a family reunion. We rented the 28' long motorhome you see above. Around 10 pm, we were crossing into Minnesota on I-90 eastbound. 7 miles inside the state line, we wrecked.
A drunk driver tried overtaking us in the left lane. He veered off the road and into the median. Coming back onto the highway, he overcorrected, contacting the RV on the driver side. Much like the police PIT maneuver, this caused our vehicle to loose control. When the front tires hit the soft, grassy median, they dug in. The top heavy RV flipped over, and slid 150 feet on its roof. The drunk driver, meanwhile, fled the scene. He was caught after the first responders got to us, 30 miles down the road.
My dad was trapped in the cab, upside down. He had a minor scratch across his forehead, and nothing else. Everyone else in our family was ejected from the vehicle. I was the second luckiest. I was asleep on the couch, behind the passenger seat, when the wreck happened. I woke up inches from the asphalt, with a small cut on the bottom of my chin that required 3 stitches. Both of my brothers were in the bed above the cab. The only thing we can figure is that as the RV rolled, it peeled back like a sardine can. My oldest brother had a gash on the back of his head that required 3 surgical staples. My other brother and my mom were in the worst condition. My brother had internal lacerations, and a mostly-destroyed liver. My mom, at the time, was asleep in the bed, in the back of the RV. She was found 50 feet in front of the wreck, having been thrown the entire distance. She suffered a shattered pelvis, a broken back, two broken legs, several broken ribs, and a broken eye socket.
The first responders told us this is the kind of wreck where they're picking up body parts. I'm not a religious man, but the fact that we all survived is nothing short of a miracle. My oldest brother, my dad, and myself were discharged from the hospital the following morning. My other brother was in the ICU for two weeks, but recovered quickly and was discharged. My mom, being the worst injured, underwent hours of surgery. The surgeons at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, MN saved her life. In fact, she died 3 times on the operating table. The doctors told my dad that she would never walk again, and never be the same person (mentally) again. They had doubts, originally, that she would even wake up from her coma. When she did come to, my dad told her, every day, she was expected to make a full recovery. He didn't let the doctors tell her anything about her condition. After a year of intense physical therapy, and months being confined to a wheelchair, she began walking on her own. A year after the wreck, she had a medical checkup with the Mayo Clinic. She walked in the front door. The head nurse on her case fainted. To this day, her case is taught in medical classes. The surgeon who did her surgeries literally wrote the textbook on the procedures he did. Today, nearly 8 years later, she's essentially made a full recovery.
While it's absolutely insane that three of the five of us walked away, with minor injuries, it's nothing short of a miracle that all of us survived. To me, this is the most unbelievable survival story of all.
Photo Credit: cab591
6.) Allan McNish, Le Mans 2011
Suggested By: SennaMP4
How he made it: Both onscreen and from the stands, this crash looked like it was fatal. The insanely strong carbon-fiber safety cell and everything-else-is-a-crumple-zone construction of the Audi R18 let McNish walk right out of the car. The wreckage is insane
5.) Crushed Audi A7, Vancouver 2012
Suggested By: Schipwreck
How he made it: Just a few weeks ago, an Audi A7 crashed straight into a pole in Vancouver, splitting in half and bursting into a massive fire. Though the driver only had minor injuries, he was taken to the hospital on a stretcher. Walking wouldn't have been out of the question, but we're glad the he didn't have to leg it on his own. Two inches to the other side and he would've been killed.
Photo Credit: Douglas H./Jalopnik
4.) Hans Hermann, AVUS 1959
Suggested By: Crossdrilled
How he made it: The German Grand Prix was held at AVUS in '59. The track was actually a test-stretch of prototype Autobahn, with just two banked turns linking two massive, parallel straights. For a while it was the fastest track in the world. Hans Hermann's brakes failed at the end of one of the straights, thrown from his BRM while spinning through the air. With no safety cells or seatbelts, he only broke his finger.
3.) Stolen Corvette, Arizona Highway
Suggested By: Billy Ng
How he made it: The driver in this police chase classic was reportedly at 165 miles an hour when he lost control into the back of an 18-wheeler. We're skeptical of that speed, but the driver's survival is still unbelievable.
2.) Mark Webber, Le Mans 1999
Suggested By: SennaMP4
How he made it: Mercedes had a bad time at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. Both of their drivers went airborne. Webber flew off twice before the race alone, then Peter Dumbreck flew off the Mulsanne straight into a forest during the race. Webber was completely unharmed, and Dumbreck, who was injured, was the luckiest to be alive.
1.) Michael Waltrip, Bristol 1990
Suggested By: RXEight
How he made it: There wasn't a person who was watching the 1990 Nascar race at Bristol who didn't think they'd just seen Michael Waltrip die on camera. Let's hope we never see a roll cage so mangled as this again.