Sole survivors of large plane crashes

Published 7:08 AM ET, Wed January 8, 2014
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Large plane crashes with only one survivor are very rare.

Cecelia Cichan was only 4 years old in 1987 when she became the sole survivor of Northwest Airlines Flight 225. The Detroit crash claimed the lives of 154 crew and passengers, including Cecelia's parents and her brother. Although she reportedly suffered severe burns in the disaster, Cecelia remembers nothing from her traumatic experience.
University of Michigan Medical Center/AP
Cecelia was aboard an MD-82 airliner heading to Phoenix. The flight crew failed to set the plane's flaps and slats correctly for takeoff, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. It went down shortly after takeoff from Detroit's airport. Debris scattered along a road near the airport immediately after the crash. Dale Atkins/AP
Now an adult, Cichan tattooed her wrist "as a reminder of where I've come from. ... So many scars were put on my body against my will." Yellow Wing Productions/CNN Films
In 1985, 17-year-old George Lamson Jr. and his father changed seats aboard Galaxy Airlines Flight 203 moments before it took off and crashed in Reno, Nevada. No one knows whether that decision saved the teen's life. As the plane went down, Lamson made a pact with God that if he survived, he would work to do good and help others. The young Lamson lost his father in the crash. Now a father himself, Lamson says he tries every day to honor that promise. Yellow Wing Productions/CNN Films
Immediately after the crash, Lamson woke not far from the plane wreckage, still strapped into his seat. Because his injuries were relatively minor, he was able to walk away from the scene. In the years since the disaster, Lamson has struggled with survivor's guilt. Marilyn Newton/Reno Gazette-Journal/AP
French schoolgirl Bahia Bakari was the only survivor of a 2009 plane crash off the Comoros Islands. The crash of the Airbus A310 claimed the lives of 152 people, including her mother. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
While rescuers searched nearby coastline, Bahia clung to a piece of wreckage in the Indian Ocean for more than nine hours. "Then I heard some shouting, 'Come here!' Bahia remembers. She saw a boat and swam toward it. "Then a man jumped in the water and grabbed me and brought me back in the boat." Bahia was saved. Sayyid Azim/AP
In 2006, investigators blamed Comair Flight 5191's crew, including co-pilot and sole survivor Jim Polehinke, for taking off on the wrong Lexington, Kentucky, runway. The blame pushed him "over to a dark, angry place," his wife said. Yellow Wing Productions/CNN Films
It was incredible that Polehinke survived inside the plane's mangled cockpit, his wife explained. She said, "It was as if an angel had wrapped his arms around him and held him." Polehinke lost his left leg in the crash. Ed Reinke/AP
In 2010, the crash of Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 killed 103 people. An 8-year-old boy from the Netherlands named Ruben van Assouw survived. He was treated in a Tripoli hospital for multiple fractures to his legs. Andrew Medichini/AP
Ruben's survival is even more remarkable after viewing the debris field left by the crash. The plane was attempting to land at Tripoli International Airport after a nine-hour flight from Johannesburg. Andrew Medichini/AP
When 2-year-old Mohammed al-Fateh Osman became the sole survivor of the crash of a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 in 2003, doctors were mystified. The boy was burned and lost part of a leg in the disaster, which took place near Port Sudan near Sudan's Red Sea. Doctors speculated that he was thrown clear of the plane. SALAH OMAR/AFP/Getty Images
Also in 2003, an Air Algerie Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff in the Sahara Desert at Tamanrasset, Algeria. The crash killed 102 passengers and crew. The only survivor was a soldier who was flying back to his Algiers barracks at the end of his leave. ap
In 1995, 9-year-old sole survivor Erika Delgado lost her parents and younger brother in the crash of an Intercontinental Airlines DC-9 near Bogota, Colombia. The disaster claimed 51 lives. After a farmer found Delgado, she said God had told her to stay put until help came. She became a national celebrity, hailed as Colombia's "Little Miss Miracle."
In 1972, JAT Yugoslav Airlines Flight 367 exploded in mid-flight over Eastern Europe, killing all of the DC-9's 28 passengers and crew except one: Serbian flight attendant Vesna Vulovic. Vulovic was hospitalized after surviving a fall of nearly 33,000 feet and landing near Srbska Kamenice in what was then Czechoslovakia. CTK via AP Images
In 1971, lightning struck LANSA Flight 508, destroying the Lockheed Electra over Peru. Of the 92 people aboard the plane, the only survivor was Juliane Koepcke, right, who fell 2 miles into the rainforest. Suffering minor injuries far from civilization, Koepcke walked and swam for days before her rescue. AP