What exactly happens when you fall from a height?

I am writing a twisted story where a character needs to commit suicide by jumping from an 8 story office building because he will soon be attacked. He is an extremely paranoid character (for a bit of humor), so he also consumes poison just before he jumps to add to certainty of death. He jumps despite taking poison because he is not a very “brave” person (again, adds to the humor a little) and is scared of a painful death due to poison.

Is he doing something wise by consuming poison before jumping? What exactly happens after a fall from height? I have read that bones can be broken, etc. but what exactly contributes to death after a fall? Internal bleeding? Brain injury? Can poison add to any of these?

Poisons usually cause organ failures. I am just not sure doing both poison and jumping together will really serve a useful purpose. Let’s say the guy doesn’t die from the fall, so he is taken to the hospital. Will the hospital staff have a tougher time to save him from the fall injuries because he also consumed poison?

I just want to write down the thought person of the paranoid guy (who is also smart and knowledgeable) because it will create some much needed humor there.



As I understand it, from great heights, if you land on your feet, everything inside your body goes out thru your ass. I suppose even if organs weren’t ejected, they would rupture when the body hit the ground, Since the body is mostly water I would imagine the results would be similar to a water balloon.

PubMed abstract:

Article on suicide by jumping (into water) from Golden Gate Bridge:

Good luck with that.

Well, if he wants to die, a little poison can’t hurt…

There are lots of different poisons, and while a few, like cyanide, might act within seconds of ingestion most would take hours or even days to kill. So, jumping from a roof might be a good idea to shorten the suffering. On the other hand, if blunt trauma doesn’t kill him immediately, there’s a good chance the poison will, especially as it’s obviously not something the medical staff would expect.
Some poisons, like warfarin, act by inhibiting blood clotting, and would indeed make any internal bleeding much worse to deal with.

I think the OP should have the guy jump off of a tall bridge after taking the poison. He hits the water, with all the results noted above, then sinks like a stone because he’s also tied a brick to his leg. The result of the body bursting releases the poison he took into the water, resulting in a huge fish kill in the following days. Marine biologists are mystified and baffled by the presence of, say, curare in the dead fish. Meanwhile police are investigating the disappearance of the jumper, who has been reported missing by his employer and others. Enter a clever forensic investigator who somehow ties both events together, probably because the missing guy was a frequent traveler to the Amazonian rain forests and thus had access to curare.

Hey, I knew a guy who tried that. To make quadruple-sure, he also brought along a gun and a rope. Well, he tied a noose in the rope, put it around his neck and tied the other end to the bridge he was on, swallowed the poison, jumped off, and pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger.

Thing is, with the falling, he couldn’t aim very well, and so missed his head completely, and the bullet hit the rope instead, weakening it so much that when he reached the end of the rope, all it did was slow him down before snapping, so he hit the water pretty slowly. The water ended up shallow enough that he could stand up and couldn’t drown, but it was brackish enough that the couple mouthfuls he accidentally swallowed made him vomit, getting rid of the poison…

… next to a hospital ship anchored waiting to dock …

I saw the aftermath of someone who had fallen from a 7th floor balcony. The paramedics were working on him. His eyes were open but unresponsive, and he had blood trickling from his ears.

Apparently he managed to live.

I recall a discussion on recovering MIA’s from Vietnam, typically pilots. The article mentioned that pilots who never ejected, were in a crash where they went from 600mph+ to 0 in no time. The investigators said the proof of this was that the sides of their boots blew out, when the liquid content of their bodies was stopped by their boots.

IANAFP (I Am Not A Forensic Pathologist) but I’ll make an educated layman’s guess. Essentially, you suffer a massive blow to your entire body. YMMV depending on what hits first - head, feet, front, back… the force of the remainder of your body landing on top of the part that hits first results in severe bone breakage. Bashed in skull? Loss of blood pressure means loss of consciousness in seconds or less (see the big long discussion here on “can you live for a few seconds when your head is chopped off?”). Spinal cord disconnections probably affect ability to breathe, if crushed ribs haven’t done so; the pressure of the impact will collapse the lungs. some of the impact and the pointy bits of bone and tearing of different organs as they slosh around - will mean that blood vessels tear in many places, as does the skin, and all the blood will run out.

Also - a 10 story fall - say 100 feet - will only take less than 3 seconds; so your comedic snuffee better think fast.

Some data points:

There’s a very famous picture of a starlet who had committed suicide jumping off the Empire State Building. She did a perfect landing on a car roof, from the top she appears perfectly fine, although the car roof is pushed in a ways. She was dead. I assume the other side of her was not so pretty.

There’s the case of a fellow who jumped from a burning bomber over Germany without a parachute. He woke up in the forest a few hours later, and walked away. The thought is he hit enough tree branches on the way through the forest canopy to stop safely, and landed in snow.

An article I read once in Penthouse (see, they have articles and people read them) was about the early days of Hollywood, the crazy and dangerous stunts done for the movies and some directors’ callous disregard for safety. After several dozen attempts to film a stuntman climbing from the top of a train onto a rope ladder dangling from an aircraft - the final go-round, the fellow was so tired he was only hanging by his hands, fell from almost a hundred feet, and landed standing upright. He died a few hours later, but when they got to him, his shin bones had broken through the bottom of his shoes.

Deaths are not usually pretty.

We had a guy try to commit suicide by jumping off an 8th story balcony at our building. So 7 x roughly 10 feet = 70 feet of fall. Didn’t work.

He landed flat (prone) on the corrugated aluminum roof of the carport he forgot to aim to miss. So he fell ~60 feet, hit the aluminum, broke through it and fell the last 10 feet to the ground. There didn’t happen to be a car parked there at the time.

Ended up with a torn liver & ruptured spleen. The fact he was stone drunk & had cocaine in him didn’t simplify the problem for the EMTs & ED docs.

He wasn’t in great shape but there wasn’t much doubt they’d put him back together enough to be released from that hospital on his way to the county psych hospital.

Had he both missed the carport roof and landed head first in the parking lot the outcome would have been more final.

If you’re going to have a jumper AND want humor (another “Good Luck whit That!”):

So far every last jumper from the Golden Gate has jumped from (near) the south tower while facing the city.
Just once, I’d like to hear of someone getting creative - jump from north tower while facing the ocean.*
There are sidewalks on both east and west - the east (facing city) is now reserved for pedestrians; the west (facing ocean) is reserved for bicycles. A pedestrian would bring quick response on the west sidewalk.

  • the bridge, last I heard, finally installed “jumper-proof” netting below the deck. Have your jumper carry cutting tools to slit the net and finish his jump. This wrinkle may provide some humor - have him try to find out exactly what the net is made of without tipping his hand as to purpose and then research cutting tools - small bolt cutters (too long of time), torch (too bulky to conceal on his/her bike), katana (too expensive for the quality required.
    Have fun with it.

Frankly, I doubt falling from that height is instantaneous death; especially if he lands feet first. I think he’d be in immovable agony for at least a few minutes.

There was a case in Bangkok where a farang (Westerner) jumped to his death from a high-rise, but only half of him land on the ground. The top half, IIRC. He’d hit some sort of wall about the 10th floor, ripping him in half with one half remaining on the upper floor. I think the poor folks on the ground below are still undergoing therapy!

yeah? do you know how he fell?

haha, but he’s not doing it from the golden gate bridge. It’s just his office building :smiley:

Thanks a lot for the responses! I love this forum!

I understand that falling head first = 100% death from that height. But falling in any other way, while still pretty certain, but is not guaranteed death.

So if the guy were to tie something heavy to his head / chest (like a backpack with stones), will that be of help to “rotate him” over so that he falls head first? of course, he has to at least attempt to fall with in an initial inclination (as opposed to completely vertical - standing pose).

I think it would make him hit head-first, yes.

I once met a man who claimed to have survived a work-accident fall from a 6th floor. He looked pretty intact and healthy. Not sure whether to believe him or not.

are we allowed to post videos on here (from LiveLeak) ?

I saw a bunch of videos of people falling. There is one where a guy falls from a 10 story building his body is quite in shape (no explosions or anything). He falls prone and bounces up a little.

Anyone has any videos?

You can’t post anything but words directly here. You can post links to vids or pix or whatever that are already uploaded someplace else like YouTube or Flickr or … . First upload your content there then paste the url from YouTube or Flickr or … into your text.

But …

Per the rules at http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/faq.php?faq=vb3_board_faq#faq_sdmb_rules

Bolding mine.

The rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want your mom to see it while she’s at her job with her boss watching, then don’t link directly to it.

…and then was killed violently by a falling piano.