Close Calls

Death missed you by inches? Serious harm only seconds too late? Holy shit that was close! I know you’ve got stories, lay 'em on me.

Here’s mine:

I was about 15 years old walking through a forest preserve with a couple of friends of mine. For some reason I think all teenage boys like to hit things that hang above them such as door jambs, signs or even branches of a dead tree.

I was behind my other two friends about 20 yards when I slapped the branch which was connected to a VERY large…log suspended high in the tree. I absentmindedly slapped it when a second later the entire thing came crashing through the branches snapping limbs a flinging them every where only to come landing at my feet. This thing was about 20’ long and maybe 12" diameter at it’s thickest.

“Holy goddamn that was close!”, I said as my two buddies stared at me mouths agape. They kept staring as I looked down and realized I was now shirtless. A branch of this Log of Doom had caught the collar of my t-shirt and torn the fucking thing clear off of me so fast I had not even noticed :eek:.

I told this story here about two years ago in a thread about snakes started by lieu.It concerns a close call I had with a black mamba when I worked in a venom lab during the 70s.

As a child of five or six, I was riding in the family station wagon, leaning against the door, half-asleep, when the door mechanism failed and I fell head-first toward the pavement speeding by. Fortunately I was wearing a seat belt at my parents’ insistence, and I just rode a couple of yards with my head sticking out like a cartoon dog, until the driver slowed the car and I was able to haul myself back upright.

In 1978 my family was in a head-on crash at speed at Goose Creek Bridge in rural Virginia. The accident happened around 10:30 at night. The other vehicle came down out of the air and hit us head-on; because he was not in contact with the ground, he was not slowed by braking; and it happened so fast that my father, who was driving, only had a second or two to apply the brakes.

We had been approaching the bridge. Reconstruction of the accident later suggested that the other driver had hit one of the concrete bridge pylons and been deflected up into the air; I have always hoped he fell asleep and did not wake up. Combined impact speed was spectacular; I do not remember an estimate, but our car was blown about 200 feet back from what was left of his car by the impact, his car was totally destroyed (popped like a balloon, perhaps from the air pressure increasing as the passenger compartment compressed?) and, when we later retrieved our belongings from the wreck, the police impoundment lot personnel refused to believe we’d been in the car at impact and were still alive.

The other car, a Subaru, was so badly destroyed that no one knew what kind of car it was (what was left looked like the back half of a VW bug to me) until searchers in the woods found a fragment bearing the letters “baru.” The searchers were out there looking for the other driver and/or passengers.

Everyone in our (new) Chevy Nova was knocked out by the impact but came to seconds later, while the car was still spinning backward. We couldn’t see out; the domelight had come on, the car was full of swirling dust, and the glass was all shattered into opaqued cubes. All I could think of as the car rotated wildly was “Isn’t there a bridge and a river around here somewhere?” We stared at each other and hung on until we fetched up against a guardrail, which started to crumple in the side of the car. I leaned over and grabbed my little sister and hauled her away from the caving-in door, but it stopped after a moment, just short of crushing her side.

The engine had broken off its mountings and been driven into the passenger compartment and fallen onto my dad’s right foot. He wouldn’t take his foot off the brake, and so the engine crushed his ankle (he had a pin in there for the rest of his life). My mom split the dashboard with her face like a karate chop, but inexplicably suffered no damage. My sister got a nosebleed. Everyone had huge blue-black bruises across every inch of body that a seat belt had touched.

We climbed out of the wreckage and stood in shock, shivering uncontrollably in the not-very-cold March night air. The key buzzer kept buzzing madly, warning us not to lock the keys in the car, but they were jammed in and would never be removed. A large pool of gasoline slowly spread out around the wreck, and the insistent buzzer gradually brought to our dazed attention the possibility of sparks, and we finally moved away to stand shivering somewhere far from the gasoline spill.

My dad started the search for survivors, hobbling on his crushed ankle, asking passing cars for a flashlight or help (several fled the scene without stopping to help, just weaving through the huge field of shattered glass and fragments and driving off into the dark). Eventually someone stopped to help, but it was the police and emergency responders who eventually found the other driver face-down in water, about 50 feet from the highway. He probably hadn’t been wearing a seat belt, although it could have been snapped in the total pulverization of his vehicle. They thought he’d probably been killed by the impact, either with the bridge pylon or with us, as opposed to drowning.

In school the next day we pulled up our shirts at every opportunity to show off the seat-belt bruises.

And that’s why I’m narrowly alive. The 1978 Chevy Nova came with seat belts for the driver and front passenger only; you could order seat belts for the back left and right side passengers, but not for someone sitting in the middle. But we were a family of five; one kid would normally sit in that middle seat. My father had INSISTED they install a middle seat belt. Eventually the car was sent back to the factory and a custom seat belt installation took place for the middle seat, even though this meant we had to wait a few weeks to take possession of our new car.

I was the kid in that middle seat.

Jesus. Sailboat’s won the thread already.

I’ve had so many over the years its hard to believe, but the very first one was when I was 7. I was sitting on a log watching my older cousin (12) chop firewood with a double headed ax. As he took a mighty swing the aze head slipped off the handle and flipped through the air towards me. It landed on the front of my shoe splitting it and hitting the spot between my big and 2nd toe. Only the shoe was damaged and I had to pull my foot out due to the depth of the strike I couldn’t remove the axe head.

One time when I was a kid I was driving along a hill in my 1984 Honda Accord, and hit some ice and spun around four or five times on the road, going off and coming back on between each spin… I was going about 70, and on one side of the road was a flooded river, the other was a power transformer station that would have fried me…

When I stopped spinning, I ended up pointing the right way exactly in the other lane… it was so close…

(I think we had a thread like this last summer)

My fiance’ (at the time) and I were driving back to south Florida on Thanksgiving night going down I-75. It’s a pitch dark interstate that’s fairly empty and cars typically travel 85-90mph. It was around midnight and we came over a slight hill to see traffic backed up to a standstill (some semi had overturned) somewhere near Punta Gorda.
So we take our place at the end of the sitting line. It then occurs to me “shit, if someone comes over that hill behind me and isn’t paying attention this may not be good.” No sooner than I thought that and looked in my rear view mirror did a car crest the hill doing the full 85-90mph. I was tapping the brake lights like mad and it must have quickly got the guys attention. He hit his brakes but too abruptly and locked them up. So now I hear this god-awful screeching of tires as I’m still watching in my rear-view mirror a car fish tailing down the interstate coming right at us probably at 60-70mph. All I could tell my fiance’ who couldn’t see what was happening was “fuck, fuck, fuck, hold on, hold on, hold on” and thought “if this doesn’t kill us we’re still going to get really messed up.”
I gripped the wheel as tightly as I could bracing for impact when the car suddenly shot by me on the left (in a blur) and slid off the road through the grass into a shallow ditch and eventually came to a stop a hundred yards away.
The guy was fine, drove out of the ditch, back down the road side and took his place in line behind me.

Student skydiver. I had a high speed malfunction on my main (very short pilot chute in tow if you know the vernacular) followed by a partial malfunction (“Mae West”) on the old round reserve.

Landed the spinning, partially inverted round. Found out later that the lineover had been slowly but surely cutting the reserve canopy in two as I was swinging around on the way down.

When I purchased my own rig later I made quite sure to have a modern ram-air reserve canopy.

From: What’s the closest you’ve ever come to drowning?
08-06-2005, 01:20 PM
In My Humble Opinion

In college, I was in the right back seat of a Mazda with 3 other people, plus 2 more people in the front. We were driving much, much too fast on Storrow Drive in Boston. The front left tire blew out, and the car managed somehow to go up onto the guardrail on the left, then swerve away from it so it was up on 2 wheels for a few seconds. It seemed to be touch or go whether we’d land back on all 4 wheels or turn turtle, but the driver managed to pull off some nifty driving and got us level again and over to the shoulder. The next day, when looking at the car we found that the window on my side had shattered, which was surprising, since there were no scrape marks or anything on the door. I checked the wool cap I’d been wearing at the time, and found pieces of glass stuck in it - as far as we can tell, I broke the window with my head when the tire blew out. Had the car gone onto it’s side, I would have been scraping my head along pavement at 80 mph.

Yesterday an old woman swerved into my lane and came within a foot of my front tire. I was riding my 150 cc scooter, I would have gone flying off of it and landed in the middle of the street.

I was born with pyloric stenosis. In short, I couldn’t eat or digest anything. I had to have a life-saving operation at 10 weeks of age. Apparently, the know-how to perform this particular operation had only been developed about ten years before I was born.

As a small child I was once at a tourist spot with my famly. I ran across a small road without thinking - straight in front of a moving car. The driver was alert enough to see me and slam on the anchors just quickly enough not to knock me over. I don’t know if the impact would actually have been fatal, but I think it would have done a lot of damage.

In my 30s I had a job that involved a lot of driving. One afternoon, after a meeting, I was driving back to head office along the motorway (freeway). It was pouring with rain, there was slight fog, visibility was poor. I was trying to drive reasonably cautiously, but as it turned out I wasn’t nearly cautious enough. As I looked ahead, I suddenly saw that the vehicles ahead of me weren’t moving. I tried to brake in time, but it was no use. I was going too fast and I could tell I was going to hit the vehicle in front. I was in the middle lane of three, and the lanes either side were full of cars slowing down, just as I was trying to.

Sure enough, I eventually slammed into the car in front. Fortunately, I had slowed down sufficiently by that point that the impact was survivable. The entire front portion of the car was crumpled like a paper bag. I was rather shocked by it, but physically unharmed. I wanted to get out of the car before someone else crashed into me. I got out, but I was now in the middle of three lanes of cars, some still moving, some trying to slow down, some heading for the same sort of crash that I had just had. There were small cars and giant trucks, rain still pouring down, light fog still wrapping the scene is wisps of gray.

I had to guess the right moment and scurry to the grass verge at the side of the motorway. I was lucky. Eventually the pile-up stopped getting any worse, the emergency services came along and sorted out the mess, and the weather cleared up. My car got towed back to the office, with me in the tow truck. All in all, a very narrow escape.

While going between classes at college I heard some very loud noises and went to investigate. Turns out there was a woman with a Mauser rifle shooting people. I charged the 20’ or so between us and she leveled the gun at my chest. She never fired and I was able to yank the weapon out of her hand and then dodge the hunting knife she swung at me before she accidentally stabbed herself in the leg and gave up.

When I saw the rifle, I noticed she had forgotten to close the bolt when reloading (what she was up to when I found her), and had probably pulled the trigger when it was pointed at me at point blank range.

Man, I lead a bland, colorless life compared to some of you guys. Yeah, I figuratively saw my life flash before my eyes when I spun my car off a bridge once, but black mambas? Skydiving? Disarming a fucking sniper?

I am such a wimp. But I’m alive to admit it, dammit.

We had a thread like this a while ago and someone told the story about how his buddy wanted him to spend the night but he went home instead and his buddy and everyone in the house were killed that night.

Nothing as good as Sailboat’s.

When I was a kid, maybe 9, my mother took me to the doctor. His office was in a stripmall, with a rather large parking lot build on the side of a hill. (The street was Hillside Blvd.,. natch.) For some reason I was in the back seat, behind her, and I started to get out of the read driver’s side door, but she stopped me and told me that you should always exit the passenger side when possible. So I slid over, got out of the door, and closed it. I felt a big bump. A car parked up the hill didn’t have its brakes set, and rolled down and smashed right into the passenger side rear door.

My wife got hit by a red light runner driving my car. It hit the driver side door, but Saturns are made well and she was in the emergency room for just a few hours. The insurance guy said it was the worst damage he’d ever seen someone more or less walk away from, but he obviously never saw Sailboat’s car. That beats it by a mile.

I was young and stupid and driving drunk - more than 20 years ago. I took a girl back to her house to get a change of clothing before we hit the next bar. The lights on the train track were flashing. I looked left and didn’t see a train and hit the gas. The train was coming from the right and barely missed us. The girl went nuts on me (rightly so.) I wish I could say I learned my lesson, but it was many years later before I got smart about drinking and driving. (I no longer do that.)

Some real jaw droppers in here.

As some of you know, I was hit on my bicycle several years ago. The fender on the horse trailer caught the back of my leg, throwing me off the bike and to the right, away from the truck. The bike was not touched. Six inches farther to the left would have been a clean miss, six inches more to the right would most likely have killed me outright.

Context: At the time, I was going to a college located near the top of a small mountain. There’s a town about a mile away from the campus, also on said mountain. At the time, I was rather out of shape, and I have foot problems that exacerbate any attempts to walk uphill.

Anyway. Our campus store had taken advantage of its relative monopoly by charging rather inflated prices for such staples as notebooks, laundry detergent and the like. I was determined to walk to town and buy these things more cheaply. So I set off. The part of town closest to the campus was full of antique stores and cafes. Hip? Certainly. Also pretty, and fun to window shop in. Sadly, there was no store with offers of cheap laundry detergent, so I was forced to continue my search. I walked another mile or so, through residential areas and past motels, still nothing. I had started to get somewhat tired (out of shape, remember). Finally, there in front of me sat a K-Mart. The holy grail of cheap staples.

I think I bought some sort of breakfast sandwich at this point.

Anyway, I loaded up my backpack with paper, notebooks, two large cases of cheap laundry detergent, and a few other miscellaneous items, and prepared for the trek back. The new items were quite heavy, especially the cheap laundry detergent. Those alone probably added 20 pounds to my backside, not even accounting for the other stuff. At this point, I could no longer move briskly, forced to trudge along. I trudged back to Antique Shop Street, buying a drink along the way. The sun was hot.

At this point, I decided to take a shortcut back, as I was tired and hot and weighed down with cheap laundry detergent. I only vaguely knew how it went, but I was sure I could figure out how it went. So I started trudging uphill. Already, my feet hurt, and I was forced to splay them.

As you’ve probably already guessed, I missed my turn. There was a turn I needed to make to get back to campus, and I didn’t make it. In my defense, it didn’t help that large leafy trees were growing everywhere. The sides of the road were sparse, and I trudged on, hoping to carry my cheap laundry detergent back to the dorm and do some celebratory laundry. Every turn looked like it could be the final stretch.

Sadly, I encountered no campus-like buildings. I saw some individual homes, and some interesting mailboxes. I encountered a puddle large enough to hold a mosquito colony. My feet started to hurt even more, and my leg muscles were spasming slightly. I contemplated asking for help, but I wasn’t sure about knocking on a random stranger’s door. Around the point when I reached a completely unfamiliar construction site, I realized that if I didn’t find my way soon, my legs would just…give out. Which would probably be fatal.

And then, I reached the top, where the road started going downhill. Obviously, I knew I had passed the campus. Now things were looking really bad. I weighed my options. I could walk all the way back to town, and go back the way I knew. I was unsure I could make it that far. Plus, there was the (unfounded) fear of the sun setting. If that happened, I was truly screwed. Advancing held no advantages, but at the time my mind was addled from the sun and the exhaustion, so I pressed on.

Luckily, only a few hundred feet forward, I saw a massive nursing home. Fear be damned–I needed help, so I just hobbled my way right in there and asked the receptionist…for directions. She offered to drive me. And somewhere, in the back of my brain, the sleep-derived suicidal voice of pride had me refuse, weakly. Fortunately, I was able to forcibly regain my senses, and I rode back to campus, depositing my cheap laundry detergent on my bed. I earned the shit out of that cheap laundry detergent.

Mine happened back when I was working as a clerk for a railroad that served the steel mill in my home town. I was out one night in a company pickup, in unbelievably dense fog; visibility seemingly less than 50 feet. I came up to an unguarded railroad crossing near one of the yard offices. It was usually a fairly untrafficked area, so I foolishly started across without stopping. Just as I straddled the tracks I saw a shape to my right and realized it was a locomotive, it was moving, and was just about on the crossing. I managed to make it across a few feet ahead of the train, and heard on the truck’s two-way radio the engineer calling the yard office: “Hey, I just nearly hit a guy!” Probably to my benefit, it was so foggy he couldn’t identify the vehicle.