9 Incredible Stories of Survival — and the Heroes Who Lived to Tell the Tale
Paul Nicholls survived a jungle waterfall
British actor Paul Nicholls — who rose to fame on the BBC soap EastEnders and had a role in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason —spent three days trapped in a rock pool at the base of a jungle waterfall, after a fall that broke both his legs and shattered his knee.
The 38-year-old was found in agony at the base of Khun Si falls on July 13, CBS News reported. He was semi-conscious with hypothermia and unable to move, but is now recovering in a hospital, his rep confirmed to PEOPLE, after being rescued by locals on the Thai island of Kohn Samui. He told The Sun: “I am lucky to be alive."
Austin Hatch survived two plane crashes
In September 2003, Hatch lost his mother and two siblings in a plane crash in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that both he and his father survived. And in June 2011, tragedy struck again. He was the lone survivor of another plane crash in Charlevoix, Michigan. This one killed his father, Stephen, 46, an anesthesiologist, and stepmother, Kim. The only other survivor was his labradoodle, Brady. The devastation made him all the more grateful for his fiancée of two years, Abby Cole, whom he plans to marry.
Cole has helped Hatch cope with all the losses in his life. “She’s made me grow in my faith and made me a better man,” Hatch told PEOPLE previously. “My faith has been tested a little bit… I don’t think God made it happen [the two crashes] but he let it happen…But it’s like, if he stopped every bad thing from happening, what would the world be like?”
Melissa Dohme survived after being stabbed 32 times
Melissa Dohme was stabbed 32 times by her ex-boyfriend in 2012 near her home in Clearwater, Florida. But as fate would have it, on the worst day of her life she ended up meeting a man who became the most important person in her life.
Dohme and Cameron Hill, an emergency worker who helped carry her battered body from an ambulance and into a helicopter for lifesaving treatment on the night of her stabbing, connected about 10 months later at a luncheon in her honor.
After four years of dating, the unlikely couple tied the knot on March 4 during a gorgeous ceremony at The Lange Farm in Dade City, Fla.
“It’s unbelievable where my life’s come from and where I am now,” Dohme, now an advocate for domestic violence prevention at Hands Across the Bay, told PEOPLE previously. “For so long, I felt when looking at myself, that I wasn’t myself and I always had something wrong with me. I didn’t want people to always have to give me sympathy or anything like that.
She adds: “Cameron was so great, he would always just be there for me I think in every way, even if I was really upset or had a really rough day.”
Roseann Sdoia survived the Boston bombings
Roseann Sdoia was gravely injured in the second explosion of the Boston marathon bombing and later lost her right leg. She was assisted by Northeastern University student Shores Salter during the attack. He held the tourniquet that kept Sdoia from bleeding to death until Boston Police officer Shana Cottone commandeered an official van to drive her to Mass General Hospital.
Holding her hand the whole way was firefighter Mike Materia — who became Sdoia’s fiancé in February.
“I just kept thinking about the story of the four of us that day and thinking about everyone who has helped me,” Sdoia, who released a memoir Perfect Strangers, told PEOPLE. "I thought it was important to put it down on paper and what has come out of this has been extremely special.”
Stephanie Decker survived an F4 tornado
Stephanie Decker made the hard decision to save her kids instead of herself when a tornado ripped through their town of Henryville, Indiana, on March 2, 2012 — and it cost her her legs. Decker, now 42, was home with her two children, Dominic, 8, and Reese, 5, when the F4 tornado with 175-mile-an-hour winds began tearing through their home. A 20-foot steel eye beam fell toward her and crushed her legs.
“I was covered in bricks and stones," Decker told PEOPLE. "I could let go of them, move the stuff off me and get away from that beam. I chose to let the beam fall instead of letting go of my kids. The feeling was, ‘I’d rather get my arms ripped off instead of letting go of my kids.'”
“I love the impossible,” she says. “That’s my forte.”
Lauren Scruggs Kennedy survived after walking into a spinning propeller
A devastating propeller accident left then 22-year-old Lauren Scruggs Kennedy without her left eye and left hand in 2011. The 28-year-old lifestyle blogger has made an amazing recovery since walking into the spinning propeller. "Now I focus on the progression of my life and who I am,” she tells PEOPLE. “[It] was painful, but I’m thankful for what came out of it.”
Scruggs Kennedy tied the knot with E! Newshost Jason Kennedy, 35, in December 2014 and the two have been “so in love” ever since, she says.
In December 2016, Scruggs Kennedy launched a nonprofit called LSK Foundation to help cover the cost of silicon-covered prosthetics for those who have lost limbs.
“We provide beautiful cosmetic coverings specifically for women when insurance won’t cover realistic cosmetic coverings for people with limb loss,” she explains.
Tom Mitchell/Good Samaritans survived 4 Texas Twisters
Eager to help people after at least four tornadoes ripped through Texas in May, Tom Mitchell came across a flipped truck near Myrtle Springs, Texas, and realized that a father, toddler and infant were trapped inside, according to WFAA. He filmed the moment a few Good Samaritans went into the water to free the family, but realized quickly that the baby needed CPR. "This baby is gonna die if we don’t start CPR fast," he said at the time. Mitchell sprung into action and performed CPR as a woman said, “Dear Jesus, please let this baby breathe.” Video of the heroic efforts can be seen here.
Tiffany Johnson survived a shark attack
Tiffany Johnson, a 32-year-old mother of three from Concord, North Carolina, was on a Caribbean cruise with her husband, JJ, in June when a shark attacked her. They were snorkeling near the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas when she came "face-to-face with the shark,” she tells PEOPLE. “I felt the strength of the Lord, this supernatural strength — you start almost replaying your life in your mind and I literally pushed that back and was like, ‘No, I’m not going to die here. This is not the end for me. I refuse for him to take my life.’ ” Johnson thought of her three kids — ages 2, 4 and 5 — and knew she had to fight back against the shark.
“I remember the look of terror in [JJ’s] eyes. I’ve never seen that look before," she says. "He looked over and he says he saw my arm half gone and blood surrounding me. The water was just red everywhere. He screamed, ‘Baby!’ And then just jumped into the water.”
Johnson lost her arm, but survived! And is working to get a prosthetic.
Kenny Bellau survived Hurricane Katrina (and saved hundreds)
Kenny Bellau, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, is credited with rescuing over 400 people during the aftermath of the storm, bringing survivors who were confined to their homes due to murky floodwaters to safety aboard a 24-foot-long motorboat.
"When I picked kids up, some were scared, but I used the boat as a tool to distract them,” he told PEOPLE. “I would say, ‘Look down!’ and sometimes we could see the top of a car below us in the water or I would show off driving the boat. Anything to get a smile, anything to distract them from the grief.”