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10 World Record Attempts That Went Terribly Wrong

Most people that try to set world records are professionals who understand what they are doing. Being a professional is however not a guarantee for safety. Things can always go wrong and sometimes; the results are an entirely different kind of record. While some people fail to set the record, others fail at the cost of their lives or that of others. Whether the intention is to test yourself or impress the world, you need to have all it takes to set a record. Guinness World Records insists that no record is worth dying for. Cheating death is, however, the main test in most world records and it doesn’t always end well. These ten went horribly wrong and still remind us of the need to put safety first.

1. The Longest Time Spent While Buried Alive

World Record Attempts That Went Terribly Wrong - The Longest Time Spent While Buried Alive

Being buried alive is one of history’s most feared punishments, but some people still test its limits. This stunt is actually too dangerous, and the Guinness World Records wouldn’t approve it, but Janaka Basnayake, a former member of the Sri Lanka Civil Defense Force, tried it anyway. According to his mother, the disastrous 2012 attempt was his third. He had allegedly been buried alive for 2 hours and 6 hours on different occasions surviving both times without a scratch. He employed the help of his friends to be buried in a 3m deep grave using wood and soil at 9.30 am. When his friends dug him out at 4 pm, he was unconscious. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Guinness World Records later confirmed that they do not approve of such perilous record attempts so the record wouldn’t have been recognized anyway.[1]

2. Longest Distance Traveled on a Zip Line Using Hair

Longest Distance Traveled on a Zip Line Using Hair

Sailendra Nath Roy was an Indian policeman and daredevil that won this Guinness world record in 2011 after traveling 82m on a zip line attached to his ponytail. The amazing things he could do with his hair had made him very famous. He pulled a train attached to four cars using his ponytail in 2008 and 2012 and even swung between buildings on it. In April 2013, he called a crowd of thousands to cheer him as he tried to break his 2011 record. This time he was trying to cross the 600ft wide Teesta river canyon. According to his wife, he had promised that this would be his last stunt; sadly, it was. He broke the record because he was able to cover 300ft on the zip line before his hair got stuck. There were no doctors on the site, and no one understood what to do as he started throwing his feet shouting for help. He was suspended for 45 minutes before they pulled him down. He suffered a massive heart attack because of the strain and died.[2]

3. A Trip Around the World in 30 Days

A Trip Around the World in 30 Days

In June 2014, Babar Suleman, a Pakistani American pilot and his son Harris Suleman set off in a single-engine plane to go around the world in 30 days. Babar was an experienced pilot, and his son started flying at the age of 8 making them a perfect pair for the stunt. The plane was however not prepared for the job as it proved a few days later. They wanted to raise money for schools in Pakistan alongside setting the record of the youngest pilot to circumnavigate the Earth. They fully understood the dangers of flying long hours in a small plane, and they were well armed. Harris, who was just 17 even said they were prepared for ditching the plane in case things went South but sadly, there was no time to ditch when disaster struck. The plane crashed less than 1 hour after taking off from American Samoa; the engine blew up at 19,000ft. The 17-year-old was found dead still strapped to his seat. His father’s body was never located.[3]

4. The Most Balloons Released at One Time

The Most Balloons Released at One Time

This didn’t sound like a dangerous record to set at all; it only involved raising the most balloons into the air. This time, the number was 1.5 million balloons at the Ohio Balloon Festival in 1986, and it was spectacular, well at first. The only thing the Tom Holowach, the project manager, didn’t plan for was what happens to the balloons when they finally touch down. The balloons were first inflated by volunteers and held under a massive net. The release was supposed to happen the following day, but the organizers decided to release them earlier because the city was expected to experience a storm. The storm came while the balloons were still high up and pushed them into the city causing havoc. The coastguard was unable to rescue two men whose boats had capsized because of the balloons, and they died. The airport also had to be closed for hours because of visibility issues, and the whole city came to a standstill with traffic. It simply turned into a colossal balloon disaster famously known as “balloon 86.”[4]

5. The Largest Popsicle Ever Built

The Largest Popsicle Ever Built

In 2005, this record was held by So Jan Van Den Berg from the Netherlands after erecting a 20,000-pound popsicle standing 21 feet high. Snapple, the US-based soft drinks manufacturer, decided to break the record by building the largest popsicle ever, they named it Snappsicle. The pop had to be made in the summer like the previous record holder, and the Guinness World Record judges required it to be erected for the record to hold. The trouble began with the transport as the giant block was supposed to be transported in a cold truck from NJ to union square to be erected. The block started melting from the inside releasing a pink slippery liquid all over the street. The police and the fire department had to be involved in the cleanup to avoid accidents. The crane was also unable to lift it because the inside had melted making it impossible to raise it at 25 degrees as earlier required. The company called off the attempt and replaced the popsicle with a TV-sized sculpture instead.[5]

6. The Largest Number of People Freefalling at a Time

The Largest Number of People Freefalling at a Time
(AP Photo/World Team, Henny Wiggers)

Skydiving sounds scary to many people, but the sport is relatively safe. More people die from lightning strikes in the US than skydiving. The 2014 record attempt involved 200 skydivers freefalling in a formation from 18,000 feet. This record had been attempted a year earlier in Eloy Phoenix but turned fatal. Two hundred skydivers were participating, and two men collided mid-air and died from their injuries. The 2014 attempt which marked the 20th anniversary for the world parachutist’s organization also ended in tragedy. Diana Paris, an expert skydiver from Berlin, died after her main parachute failed midair. She released the reserve parachute too close to the ground leading to the fatal fall. The group then went on to perform another group skydive with only 221 this time leaving an open space to commemorate their colleague.[6]

7. The Deepest Sea Dive Ever

The Deepest Sea Dive Ever - Dr. Guy Garman

Unlike the balloons whose main problem is coming down, the main problem with diving too deep is fighting millions of tons of water on your way up. Dr. Guy Garman, famously known ad Doctor Deep was an expert diver who decided to break the record for the deepest dive ever. The record was previously held by Ahmed Gabr from Egypt who descended 1090 feet into the red sea in an astonishing 12 minutes. Garman decided to break the record by dropping a whole 1200 feet off the coast of ST. Croix. Experts, however, argued that he was not experienced enough for this stunt because he had only four years of experience and his deepest dive was 847ft.

Unlike Ahmed who prepared for four years, his preparation took only two years. He had organized a support team with two boats which included his son to accompany him in the first 200 feet and a second one to pick him up in the ascend at 360 feet. According to the team, he went down as planned but never came up. It is hard to understand what exactly went wrong. The main risks in the trip back to surface include decompression and nitrogen narcosis which occurs when there is an excessive build up of nitrogen in the brain.[7][8]

8. The Youngest Person to Fly Over the US

The Youngest Person to Fly Over the US Jessica Dubroff

7-year old Jessica Dubroff was the most famous pilot in the US in 1996. She was so small the plane had to be fitted with booster seats to help her see outside the window. She had flown several times executing perfect landings before she decided to embark on the quest of becoming the youngest person to fly from the Pacific to the Atlantic and back. She even hoped to make a stopover in Washington and take president Bill Clinton on a short trip in her 4-seater Cessna 177B.

She employed the help of Joe Reid, a veteran pilot to and her dad on the trip which started flawlessly. She was able to land at her first stop in Cheyenne despite the strong winds, but the storm turned her trip from Wyoming to Indiana into a disaster. The plane crashed killing all the people on board including her father. Witnesses said the aircraft had a hard time taking off in the storm. It was unclear why anyone let Jessica take off in such conditions.[9]

9. The Highest Ever Space Skydive

Nick Piantanida

Baumgartner or fearless Felix hold the world record for the highest skydive from a manned balloon as many know him today. He set it at 24 miles above the earth, just the edge of space. The mission was successful thanks to a team of experts including Joe Kittinger who broke the record in 1960 at 102,800 feet. Unlike these two expert divers, Nick Piantanida was just a poor truck driver from New Jersey that decided to jump off from the edge of space after his first ever skydive. He had no formal training or prior experience, but he was determined to launch the first “civilian space program.”

He solicited funds for his suit and balloon from sponsors including a US senator, most of whom were just inspired by his sheer determination. He made three attempts and unofficially broke the record for the highest ever manned balloon altitude at 123,500ft during his second attempt. His gondola, however, got stuck in the parachute and he had to descend in it foiling the record. In his third attempt, his helmet visor opened at 57,000ft forcing the crew to stop the ascend remotely. The trip down caused decompression complications that sent him into a coma killing him four months later.[10][11]

10. Landplane Speed Record

Lowell Bayles - Landplane Speed Record

The American National Air races were one of the most famous sports in the early 1900s and 278.4mph was the record to break. Lowell Bayles was a celebrated pilot known for his prowess with the Gee Bee Zs with which he won many races. Lowell’s chief desire, however, was to break the world record and crash through the 278.4-mile record. To beat the record, the pilot had to fly four trips, and the average would be considered for the coveted record. On Dec 5th, 1931, Bayles made four runs hitting 314 mph at one point but being a trial run, this was not entered as a record run. After the first two attempts a few days later, Bayles fell short of the record by less than 5mph. The record was apparently possible, but it kept eluding him. When he finally did hit the mark on the third run, the fuel cap came loose and struck him on the head. The plane then crashed and burst into a ball of fire forcing the whole record to be terminated. He never made it.[12]

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