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How To Fall To Your Death And Live To Tell The Tale

In 2007, New York City window washer Alcides Moreno fell 472 feet when his scaffolding collapsed. Amazingly, he survived, although he suffered broken bones, internal injuries, and was in a coma for weeks. His brother, who was also on the scaffold, did not.

By 100 feet or more, falls are almost always fatal, apart from freak accidents. People have fallen miles from planes and lived, due to tumbling down snowy hillsides, the way extreme skier Devin Stratton did when he accidentally skied off a 150-foot Utah mountain cliff in January 2017 and escaped unharmed, his fall arrested by branches and cushioned by deep snow. He was wearing a helmet, which cracked even as its camera recorded his plunge.

"It's not the fall that gets you," the skydiving joke goes. "It's the sudden stop at the bottom." Deceleration is the key to surviving falls and reducing injuries — it isn't the length of fall that's relevant, but what happens as you reach the ground. This was dramatically demonstrated in the summer of 2016 by professional skydiver and safety expert Luke Aikens. He jumped from a plane without a parachute at an altitude of 25,000 feet, or 4.7 miles, hitting a 100-by-100-foot net positioned in the southern California desert and emerging without a scratch.

An article at Digg follows Moreno's fall and recovery, and those of other fall survivors. It also looks into the physics and statistics of falling, with some advice on how to best avoid and minimize the damage of falls.
(Image credit: Mark Ahsmann)

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