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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Incredible Luck

     If you were to jump off the observation deck of the Empire State Building how far would you fall? The answer is about 1,050 feet and it would be fatal, right? Not if you were Elvita Adams. 
     After losing her job, the Bronx woman was reportedly living off $100 welfare checks. Unable to pay the rent, her landlord was threatening to evict her and her 10-year old son. So, on the night of December 2, 1979, the 29-year old woman went to the Empire State Building’s 86th floor observatory, scaled the spiked fence and jumped. 
     She wasn’t the first person who decided to commit suicide by leaping from the Empire State Building. There have been over 30 suicide attempts, most of which have been successful. The first one happened in 1931 before the building was even complete when a man who had been fired jumped from the 58th floor.
     Then there was Evelyn McHale, the “the most beautiful suicide” because she wore pearls and gloves, and landed atop a limousine. A photography student snapped a photo of McHale’s 1947 jump, which then became infamous; ending up in Time magazine and even in Andy Warhol’s art. 
     So, what made Elvita Adam’s suicide special? It’s because she survived the jump when a gust of wind blew her back and she landed just one flight down and she landed on a two and a half foot ledge on the 85th floor. On that day, the winds were said to be blowing somewhere between 23 and 38 MPH. 
     A security guard named Frank Clark heard Adams moaning and reached out of the floor’s window to pull her into safety. She was then taken to Bellvue Hospital in severe pain, the result of either a broken hip or pelvis. 
     After being treated, she was placed under psychiatric watch. She said from the hospital, “All I remember is the pain, I was in so much pain that I wasn’t afraid.” She is also quoted as saying, “I’m not sure if the wind pushed me back, or pushed me off.”  Nobody knows what happened to Adams after she was saved.  
View from observation deck

     As impressive as Adams' story is, there are tales of people people surviving falls that are far more impressive.
     Vesna Vulovic (January 3,1950 – December 23, 2016) was a Serbian flight attendant. She holds the Guinness world record for surviving the highest fall without a parachute: 33,330 feet. 
     Her fall took place after an explosion tore through the baggage compartment of her flight on January 26, 1972, causing the plane to crash near Srbska Kamenice, Czechoslovakia. She was the sole survivor of the crash that air safety investigators attributed to a briefcase bomb. 
     She spent days in a coma and was hospitalized for several months. She suffered a fractured skull, three broken vertebrae, two broken legs, broken ribs and a fractured pelvis. These injuries resulted in her being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. She made an almost complete recovery but continued to walk with a limp. 
     Vulovic maintained that she had no memory of the incident and thus had no qualms about flying in the aftermath of the crash. She became a celebrity in Yugoslavia and was deemed a national hero. 
     Her survival was attributed to her being trapped by a food cart in the fuselage as it broke away from the rest of the aircraft. When the cabin depressurized, the passengers and other flight crew were blown out of the aircraft and fell to their deaths. Investigators believed that the fuselage, with Vulovic pinned inside, landed at an angle in a heavily wooded and snow-covered mountainside, which cushioned the impact. Her physicians concluded that her history of low blood pressure caused her to pass out after the cabin depressurized and kept her heart from bursting on impact. 

Further Reading: 
How to Fall 35,000 Feet And Survive 
10 Amazing Free Fall Survivors

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