Final Destination: Real Stories of People Who Fooled Death

The movie Final Destination where death catches up with people who avoided it during a plane crash feeds the fears of fatalists for years. Bird In Flight looked for real stories that could inspire the screenwriters for a sequel.

Statistics shows that every year there are fewer and fewer crashes in the sky. There is currently on average three accidents per 1 million flights. But you don’t think about the figures if you start imagining the worst when you board the plane.

The worst though can happen anywhere or not happen at all. Bird In Flight tries to understand whether people who believe that everything is predestined are right.

Odd Player

On December 13, 1977 Air Indiana flight 216 from Evansville to Nashville was three hours late because of bad weather. There were 26 passengers in the boarding area, half of them the Purple Aces, the basketball team of the University of Evansville. They had a match with the Blue Raiders in the capital of Tennessee. One and a half minutes after the long-awaited take-off the plane hit the ground at the edge of the airport. The experts said that the tragedy happened due to the actions of the pilot and the overload of the luggage compartment. The piloting mistake would not have led to a crash if not for the weight of the luggage that shifted the center of gravity of the plane. There were no survivors.

The experts said that the tragedy happened due to the actions of the pilot and the overload of the luggage compartment.

You would think that the only team member that was not on the flight, the first-year student David Furr, was really lucky. However, he lived only two weeks longer than his teammates: on the way back home from a match in Newton, Illinois, Furr and his 16-year-old brother died in a car crash when a drunk driver hit their car.

False Luck

32 years after the Evansville crash, the world was impressed by the story of Johanna Ganthaler and her husband: the newspapers wrote they were late for their Air France 447 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. On June 1, 2009, Air France experienced the biggest crash in the history of the company: the Airbus A330 liner fell into the Atlantic Ocean, taking the lives of all 216 passengers and 12 crew members. The investigation of the reasons for the crash took three years.


Two weeks later the world media were telling the story of a car crash involving the Italian couple. Death caught up with Johanna in Kufstein in Austria: the car that she was driving ran into a truck. However, Ganthaler’s husband who survived in the crash has unexpectedly denied the much publicized rumor about the failed flight from Rio — he said that they were not going to take an Air France flight that day, but safely crossed the ocean on board of a Spanish company called Iberia that departed from Sao Paulo.

Experience versus Machines

In 2007, a flight on a home-built plane almost cost the two members of Experimental Aircraft Association, Elzie Warren and his daughter Phyllis Jean Ridings, their lives. The aircraft caught fire in the air, and they miraculously managed to land it in a field. After the crash, Ridings said they could survive due to her father’s skills — he has been building aircraft engines for over 50 years, worked for NASA on Boeing contracts, and participated in building equipment for Gemini.


Alas, the experience in aircraft design did not save the family from tragedy four years later. On the morning of May 7, 2011 Warren (70) and Ridings (52) were heading to an air show in Temple, Texas. The cabin of the Ravin 500, an amateur aircraft, one of the 23 in the world, got covered in smoke during take-off. The pilots asked for an emergency landing and tried to land, but the plane crashed. When the rescuers got to the plane that crashed 1 km away from the airport, they found no survivors.


On July 6, 2013 due to a series of mistakes that the pilots made during decreasing altitude and landing, Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 coming from Seoul crashed at the San Francisco International Airport. When the plane hit the ground, it ripped off his tailpiece and left engine, The liner slided on the runway on its bottom, jumped up, turned 360 degrees, and slid some more till it fully stopped. The right engine caught fire, and it began to spread to the fuselage.


Only three people died out of the 307 who were on board — they were Chinese schoolgirls heading to a religious summer camp in the US. Two of them died when they were thrown out of the back of the plane (experts later concluded that they could have survived if their seatbelts were fastened). The third girl survived the fall and was waiting for the rescuers to arrive. 16-year-old Ye Mengyuan was lying on the runway 9 meters from the plane covered in the firefighting foam. It was hard to notice her in the turmoil. One of the cars of the rescuers ran over her when driving on reverse, which caused her death.

The experts later concluded that the girls could survive if their seatbelts were fastened.

Lucky Unlucky Man

Frane Selak can be considered the luckiest of the unlucky people. In 2003, a 73-year-old music teacher from Croatia won over $1 million in the lottery and was so happy about it that he married for the fifth time. In his numerous interviews he told the incredible story of having escaped death seven times. His collection of the catastrophes that he successfully survived includes the crash of a DC-8 plane over Croatia in 1963, a train falling into a river, and several serious car crashes.


Although Selak has undoubtedly won the lottery, other details of his biography are questionable. In particular, Internet users couldn’t find any proof of the plane crash over Croatia in 1963.

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