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Against All Odds: Survivor Stories

Aired December 8, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They didn't see the danger coming. When the unexpected happened, they had to think fast. Tonight we'll show you how to survive what they did.

ANNOUNCER: A young family stranded in the snow, freezing, hungry, running out of options.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They ran out of gas. They were running the car during the day and at night to keep warm. Then they started to burn their tires.


ANNOUNCER: He didn't know searchers were on the way and wasn't about to watch his family die.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was very motivated.


ANNOUNCER: Why he's being called a hero.

He was the only one who could save himself. Pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder, facing a horrible choice -- his arm or his life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the end, I was given an epiphany of how I might be able to actually get myself free.


ANNOUNCER: Life and death lessons. Your car is sinking. There is barely time to think how you get out.

Tonight, how to survive a death trap that kills hundreds each year.

And crash control. If the worst happens when you're flying, you'll have just seconds to make life and death choices. Will they be the right ones? Across the country and around the world, this is a 360 special, "Against All Odds: Survivor Stories." Reporting tonight from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and watching around the world on "CNN INTERNATIONAL." In the hour ahead, you're going to see some incredible survivor stories. They all have one thing in common. They could have happened to anyone, to me, to you, to your family. A car ride, a hike, a swim in the ocean. Any one of them can turn deadly in a split second with no warning at all. And when they do, time and terror become the enemy.

In the stories ahead are lessons that could literally save your life. So watch closely and prepare to be inspired by some very brave people.

We begin tonight in Oregon where a Thanksgiving holiday trip took a terrible turn. Here's CNN's Thelma Gutierrez.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It began as a holiday trip to the Oregon coast. James and Kati Kim and their two small children, Penelope and Sabine, were trying to get to their hotel near the ocean. But first, they'd have to cross the snow covered mountains.

It was getting late. The couple missed the highway turnoff, but their map showed another way to the Coast. Bear Camp Road. It was a windy, dark road. Somehow, they veered off of it and ended up on a dead end logging road where they got stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They made numerous attempts to try to call for assistance.

GUTIERREZ: With no cell phone reception and no way out, the family, stranded in the freezing cold, had to find a way to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Working as a group together to stay warm at night, conserving their fuel, having their engine run every now and then just so they can get the car warm.

GUTIERREZ: Their ordeal began the Saturday after Thanksgiving. By Sunday, it was raining all day. On Monday, it snowed all night. When the weather finally cleared Wednesday, the Kims burned magazines and kindling to stay warm. But the wood was wet, so they had to start burning their tires.

Food was running out. The Kims fed their kids crackers and baby food. Kati Kim breastfed both her daughters while she and James ate wild berries and drank melted snow for nourishment.

On Friday, they heard choppers circling above, but the pilots couldn't see them down below.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The car was just down in a well it looked like in the trees.

GUTIERREZ: The Kims knew a search was on, but they had no food and they had run out of gas. They had one last tire to burn.

On Saturday, after a week in the wilderness, James decided his family could wait no more.

(on camera): Before James Kim left the car, he lit a fire for his family, then he walked five miles down a logging road to try to get help. At some point he made a detour into the forest into a steep ravine and there was no turning back.

(voice-over): James was headed toward the river.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he felt if he could get to the river, he could make it to the town.

GUTIERREZ: A map he had studied earlier showed the town of Galice. He thought it was just four miles away. It was actually 15.

To get to the river, James hiked down into a deep treacherous mountain drainage area, wearing just tennis shoe, jeans and a jacket. He carried a backpack with some extra clothes, a flashlight and two lighters.

Three days after James Kim had set out for help, John Rasher, a volunteer pilot, spotted tire tracks in the snow. Then, a message.

JOHN RASHER, VOLUNTEER PILOT: There was an SOS stomped in the snow in big letters, probably five feet high. And then next to that it said out of gas.

GUTIERREZ: Then John saw Kati.

RASHER: I saw her running back and forth across the roadway with the umbrella.

GUTIERREZ: John called for backup. Scott Dunn and Daniel Townsend made a harrowing landing in the forest, with just a five-foot clearance on either side of their helicopter.

DANIEL TOWNSEND, CARSON HELICOPTERS: Just wanted a hug, and I gave her a big hug. Just saying thank for finding us, for getting us.

SCOTT DUNN, CARSON HELICOPTERS: The little 4-year-old was jumping around eating candy and crackers. And that made us all feel really good.

GUTIERREZ: With Kati and her kids rescued, the search for James intensified within the wet, wicked terrain of the mountain drainage area.

Searchers began to find clues. First, an extra pair of pants James had taken. Then pieces of an Oregon state map, and other clothes that appeared to be laid out in some sort of pattern. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The other ship just found him.

GUTIERREZ: On Wednesday, five days after he left his family, pilot Bill Alders found James Kim. He was laying on his back in the shallow water. He had died from exposure and hypothermia.

BILL ALDERS, FOUND JAMES KIM: You know, when they announced that it was -- pretty quiet in my aircraft.

GUTIERREZ: Devastating for the people who tried to save him.

One rescuer said the treacherous journey down this stretch of mountain had never been attempted by anyone before. But 35-year-old James Kim did it. He sacrificed himself for the sake of his family: his wife, Kati; and his daughters, Penelope and Sabine.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Bedford, Oregon.


COOPER: What happened to the Kim family could easily happen to anyone. Cell phones aren't a lifeline when you're trapped somewhere remote. And it's easy to fall victim to common mistakes when you're freezing and exhausted and scared.

To show us how to avoid those mistakes and get a feel for what it's like to be exposed overnight to the elements, we sent Rick Sanchez into the wild.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An hour and a half of trekking through the Rockies in the middle of the night, and my meet are without feeling, my nose won't stop running, and the shivers are starting to become uncontrollable.

I'm really starting to feel beat up in the conditions. So I'm going to try and hunker down for a while and create a shelter since I don't have one. And that's exactly what we have here.

Colorado park rangers and survival experts have earlier shown me how to build a shelter of last resort. It's essentially a trench about four feet deep, topped with thick branches cut from Pine and covered with snow like an igloo.

It doesn't look like much, but it works. Between the blanket and the heat that's generated by my body in this confined space, it's much more comfortable in here -- certainly, much more comfortable than it was when I was out there walking around for an hour and a half.

Comfortable as it may be from the waste up, my feet now feel like they're being stuck by a thousand needles. So I head to my original shelter, my car. Stuck in the snow or not, this is where you're most apt to survive longer.

Here's another reason to stay near the car. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we go out searching for people, the first place we're going to look for is where that vehicle is.

SANCHEZ: And you can help them find you with fluorescent tape. In fact, anything bright will be greatly appreciated by pilots looking for you.

RANGER KEN BRINK, SURVIVAL EXPERT: When a person is standing up, waving their hands, it's very difficult to see them from the air, but anything bright and large is helpful.

SANCHEZ: Now I'm back in the car, where my survival expert told me I should have stayed in the first place.

Run your ignition for a while and then turn it off. When you close the door, you seal in that heat and it will last a good long while before you'll have to do it all over again. Eventually, though, you're going to run out of gas.

And what do you do when you run out of gas? That's where a candle and a tin can can save your life. The key now is to try and keep the candle inside this coffee can. I'm going to drop some wax there on the bottom and while it's still hot, I'm going to place the candle so it stays in position.

RANGER DAN WEBBER, GOLDEN STATE CANYON PARK: You light the candle. It will help warm up the car. It provides company for you. It's something that people are used to. It's a campfire analogy where you light a campfire and people sit around it and it warms them up. And it actually warms up the inside of a vehicle.

SANCHEZ: Without a candle, experts say the inside of my car with me in it will stay around 32 degrees. Not bad, but not great. With a candle, it will be around 50 degrees. Now that's a temperature that can keep you alive until rescuers arrive.

(voice-over): It doesn't take much. Look at this survival kit. An old blanket, a whistle, a tin can, a candle, a couple water bottles, a nutritional bar, some tape. Maybe a shovel, some matches, hats, gloves, and a flashlight.

Using some of these items, I lasted nine hours. That's about all that I could take. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like for the Kim family. They were out there nine days.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Golden, Colorado.


COOPER: Until you're looking death in the eye, there's really no way of knowing how far you'll go to save your own life.

In the most extreme situations, like the one you're about to see, sometimes the only option you have is unthinkable.

As you watch this, ask yourself, could you do what Aron Ralston did to survive?

Here's CNN's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He thought his life was going to end in this Utah canyon. A half ton boulder landed on both of Aron Ralston's arms while he was hiking by himself. He got his left arm out, but his other arm was pinned.

Six days went by. He made a video of himself when he thought he was nearing death.

ARON RALSTON, CUT OFF ARM TO SURVIVE: My name's Aron Ralston. My parents are Donna and Larry Ralston of Englewood, Colorado. Whoever finds this, please make an attempt to get it to them.

TUCHMAN: But Ralston survived. How he did it is what makes this story so incredible.

RALSTON: Essentially, I got my surgical table ready and applied the knife to my arm and started sawing back and forth. And it didn't even break the skin. I couldn't even cut the hair off of my arm. The knife was so dull at that point.

TUCHMAN: His decision to try to self-amputate his right arm came after he ran out of water and was forced to drink his own urine. There was no help on the horizon.

RALSTON: The rational section -- portion of the decision to sever my arm came when I just -- I realized that it was really the last opportunity that I could have and still have physical strength to get myself out to where help would find me. I felt pain. And I copied with it. I moved on.

TUCHMAN: Even after he cut off his own arm, he had to fix a rope and rappel to the canyon floor, and then hike about seven miles. Finally he was found.

RALSTON: I stayed conscious and coherent through the helicopter ride, landed in Moab. It's beautiful country to see, but even more beautiful to see a town with a hospital rising up out of it.

TUCHMAN: More than three-and-a-half years later, Ralston gives motivational speeches, holding the microphone here with his prosthetic arm.

But that's just a small portion of his new life. Among his ventures, he has formed a nonprofit organization to help preserve wilderness areas in Colorado. A movie about his life is in development.

RALSTON: If the tops touch, then our saliva is touching.

TUCHMAN: And he even has a six-figure contract to appear in Miller Lite commercials. Ironic, perhaps, because of words he uttered two weeks after his experience.

RALSTON: If the doctors will so allow it, I'd love a big tall tasty crushed margarita. I thought a lot about margaritas while I was there.

TUCHMAN: No question, Aron Ralston is making the most of what feels like a second chance at life.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Remarkably, Aron Ralston didn't give up climbing. He remains an avid outdoorsman and wrote a best-selling book about his brush with death. It's called appropriate, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place."

I talked to Aron recently about his amazing survival story.


COOPER: Aron, tell me what happened the day you became trapped.

RALSTON: Well, Anderson, I was out on a solo canyoneering hike in southeastern Utah and was moving down through the bottom of a slot canyon, when the boulder that I was at first standing on and then climbing off of dislodged under my weight. I pulled it free and as it was falling and I was falling with it, as I hit the ground below it, was shielding my head with my hands. And in that instant of the rock ricocheting between the two very close walls of the canyon, it ensnared my right hand, trapping me against the wall of the canyon for what became six days there.

COOPER: And what's going through your mind? I mean, you're talking about this obviously very rationally because, you know, it's -- a lot of time has passed. You've talked about it before. But in that moment, was there panic? Was there anger? I mean, were you crying? What was it like?

RALSTON: For the first hour there was definitely a lot of anger, rage, panic, indeed tears, and there would be a lot of emotion over the course of those days that I was there.

I knew I was going to die in that place and that caused me a lot of grief, especially knowing that there were a lot of people in my life, my friends and my family who loved me, and that I loved them. And never being able to see them again took me to some real despondent times, even to the extent that I thought about killing myself rather than just delaying the inevitable.

But I prayed about that and I decided that I would see it through to the end and in the end I was given an epiphany of how I might be able to actually get myself free, despite having too pathetic a knife to be able to actually cut through the bones of my arm.

That was when this voice spoke up that said, use the boulder. Use it to break your bones. And I understood with my engineering background and, of course, the concept of torque and leverage and how exactly I would just be able to push myself against the rock to create enough bending force in the bone to then cause it to snap.

And after the first one went and the smile started to grow on my face, I was able to then make the same thing happen to the lower bone in my arm, where they both broke in the exact same location, about half the distance between my elbow and my fingertip, a few inches back from where the wristband of a watch would have been on my wrist.

I had this mounting feeling of euphoria that continued as I reached for the knife and told myself, here we go, Aron, you're in it now.

And the emotion still comes back to me as far as how beautiful an experience that was -- even as it was the most painful thing I've ever been through in my life. But I was smiling the entire time for that hour as I was getting myself free.

COOPER: When you heard about what happened to James Kim and you heard about him out there trying to get help, what went through your mind?

RALSTON: Well, a lot of compassion. I also do a lot of search and rescue work, volunteering for a local group here in Aspen. I've done that for seven years now in the places where I've lived. And it's really meaningful work to be able to go out and to help people.

And sometimes the best you can do is to bring out the recovered body of a family's loved one.

COOPER: Clearly, three years later, I mean this event has changed your life, your priorities. In what way?

RALSTON: There's hardly a way that this experience hasn't changed my life. Everything from an enhanced connection with my family and my loved ones, a greater understanding of the priorities that I have in my life, to a sense of confidence and I think clarity and self-awareness that I'm able to understand much more clearly who I am and what's important to me.

COOPER: You said that you had a vision when you were trapped about a young boy that they gave you motivation to leave. You write about that. Is that something that -- I mean, is it important to try to stay motivated, to try to keep in mind things that give you hope?

RALSTON: I think when you are really struggling to find a source of strength or courage, that relying on the connections you have with other people is the best way to do that. And that's the greatest thing that perhaps I think the connections that we build with others can contribute to our lives is that strength and courage to do what we don't want to face sometimes or what we think is impossible.


COOPER: Aron had six days to come up with a plan to save his own life. Sometimes you only have seconds. It's one of the most terrifying situations you could face. Trapped in your car underwater. Time running out, panic setting in.

Coming up, Rick Sanchez shows us just how scary it is and how to save yourself. Something you need to know.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): The water is now seeping in from elsewhere and quickly filling the cabin. I try to push on the door, but it seems jammed. Outside the car, divers are also trying to unjam the door, to let me out, but are unable to do so.



COOPER: A car can also become a death trap. And it happens more often than you might think. You're driving along, thinking about the day ahead, when suddenly your car skids off the road and into a river or a lake. When that happens, you need to get out fast, but how?

Again, here is Rick Sanchez.


SANCHEZ: What you're looking at is a view from inside a car that has just gone below the surface of a canal. It is a terrifying image that each year for hundreds of motorists, becomes their last.

MIAMI-DADE 911: Miami-Dade County Police and Fire. Where is the emergency?

KARLA GUTIERREZ, DROWNED: Hi, I just got into an accident. I just went through the railing and I'm sinking in the water.

MIAMI-DADE 911: Are you out of your vehicle?

K. GUTIERREZ: No, not yet.

SANCHEZ: The 911 call you are hearing was dialed by a woman from inside this car as it was sinking. She was driving on the Florida Turnpike. It was 2001.

K. GUTIERREZ: Oh, my God, my car is sinking.

MIAMI-DADE 911: Can you get out of the vehicle?

K. GUTIERREZ: No, I can't. If I do, all of the water is going to come in.

MIAMI-DADE 911: OK, Well, ma'am, but can you open a window or a door to get out of the vehicle? What's the last exit?

K. GUTIERREZ: Water's going to come in. SANCHEZ: The woman did not know it, and the operator did not seem to be able to convey it. But experts say opening the window is exactly what she should have done.

MIAMI-DADE 911: OK, we're getting help out, OK? Just stay on the line with me, Karla.

K. GUTIERREZ: But my car is sinking.

MIAMI-DADE 911: Karla, you can't open a window or get out?

K. GUTIERREZ: No, I can't. I can't. My car is sinking.

MIAMI-DADE 911: OK, I'm transferring you...

SANCHEZ: Karla Gutierrez drowned. Her body was recovered the following morning. Tire tracks, visible only by the light of day, finally led police to her location.

At the time, 911 operators did not have specific instructions to tell motorists how to get out of a sinking car.

Today, in part because of Karla's story, Miami police and many other departments across the country do.

SGT. JOSE ACUNA, MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT: Officer Wiggins (ph) has the final call on whatever is going on.

SANCHEZ: It's a Saturday morning on the banks of one of the thousands of waterways that crisscross the state of Florida.

Miami Police, who now do extensive training on submerged vehicle safety, have agreed to demonstrate how to get out alive. It's a daunting lesson that I'm about to receive, but one these police officials are convinced can save lives.

ACUNA: Or if we need to extract Mr. Sanchez, we'll take him to fire rescue in the event he needs any medical attention.

SANCHEZ (on camera): This is one of those stories that really makes you fight your demons. My father always told me if you're scared, just say you're scared. Guess what, folks? I'm a little scared.

So the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to get together with some of these dive masters and understand exactly what I'm supposed to do. Because once you're down there underwater, it's going to be a little too late.

OFFICER JULIUS WIGGINS, DIVE MASTER: As soon as the car hits the water, you have the seat belt off. You want to get rid of that seat belt as soon as possible.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): To say that Miami Police Officer Julius Wiggins, who is also a dive master is passionate about teaching people how to get out of a sinking car would be an understatement. His goal, to reach as many people with what he calls the basics.

WIGGINS: The seat belt first.

SANCHEZ (on camera): OK.

WIGGINS: Then unlock the car door.


WIGGINS: Then roll down the window.


WIGGINS: And then start climbing out. Then what you're going to do, is you're going to work your way out here like this. Once you're sitting here, all you have to do is just push yourself off.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): And now, the real thing.

The car plunges into the canal headfirst, then bobs back, allowing enough time to put the basic plan into action.

(on camera): With me inside the car, Photographer Rich Brooks, who is a certified diver. From his pictures, you can see I'm working fast to take advantage of what is a perfect scenario. The car has leveled out, giving me time to open the window and get out before it sinks.

However, on my second attempt, the car turns slightly, forcing the water in faster, slowing my exit. With the seat belt off, the lock undone, the window rolled down, I take a final breath and climb out.

My third attempt takes a bit longer, but I'm realizing window exit seem most effective. Whether it's a roll down or electric, it doesn't matter as long as you don't remove the keys from the ignition. Remember, even under water your battery will continue to operate the windows.

What happens, though, if the window is stuck or for some reason simply isn't working?

This window is being shattered underwater using a tool called a power punch, that motorists are urged to buy and keep in their glove box.

Now, the last time, an attempt to get out through the door.

From inside the vehicle, you can see how it looks when I leave the window rolled up. The water is now seeping in from elsewhere and quickly filling the cabin. I try to push on the door, but it seems jammed. Outside the car, divers are also trying to unjam the door, to let me out, but are unable to do so.

Admittedly, it's a chilling moment. I grab for the emergency air supply left in the front seat, rush it to my mouth and wait nervously for the car to be hoisted out of the water with me still inside breathing, waiting and with a much better understanding now of how important it is to know the basics, how to act fast and how to get out alive.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, Miami.


COOPER: The next survivor you'll meet on this 360 special report disappeared and no one knew it. Snatched off the street, held hostage. He was convince head would die. But he didn't.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was done extremely effectively and very quickly. I was handcuffed behind my back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just a big blast of air, dust, smoke and it started getting hot. It was dark. You couldn't see your hand in front of your face. I thought we was going to die. Especially when the heat and the smoke. I didn't think we would -- we would get out.


COOPER: The whole world watched the Sago Mine disaster unfold, but it doesn't always happen that way, especially in places like Iraq where kidnappings have become commonplace.

This is one hostage story. He'd been kidnapped and no one even knew about it. His parents, on vacation, hadn't been checking in. His work contacts were also off for Christmas and New Year's. The only thing he could only count on were his psychological survival skills and luck.

Here's CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is how you get kidnapped in Baghdad. A wrong turn, an empty street, two cars speeding at yours.

PHIL SANDS, FREELANCE JOURNALIST: I immediately knew what was going to happen. And you know you're in big trouble.

ROBERTSON: It's a terrifying moment, as Freelance Journalists Phil Sands knows, when you realize you are a kidnap target.

Sands was trying to work under the radar. No security. Just a translator. Sometimes a driver. All the while pushing to report from the middle of events.

SANDS: I suppose it's the arrogance of always thinking, well, I'll be smart enough, I'll be sensible enough and I'll be lucky enough to make it work.

ROBERTSON: Last December, Sands sensed the situation had taken a terrible turn for the worse when he visited a Baghdad hospital.

SANDS: There was a really nice doctor there. And she said to me, what are you doing here? This place is hell. Iraq is hell now.

ROBERTSON: It was too dangerous to stay. But Sands wanted one last story. The day after Christmas, with his translator and his driver, they went out to find it. And of course, when they made that wrong turn, Sands himself would become the subject of that last story.

Almost before he knew it, Sands was pulled out of his car, put in the trunk of another.

SANDS: It was a kidnapping. It was done extremely effectively and very quickly. I was handcuffed behind my back and with plastic zip ties.

ROBERTSON: In the trunk, blindfolded, he panicked. Thought about his family, his translator, himself.

SANDS: In my mind, I was dead. I really believed that. In a way, that's quite liberating because you can't get any lower than that.

ROBERTSON: As Sands recounts it, he was taken to a house, he was questioned. When he said he was a journalist, his captors told him he wouldn't be harmed. He told them how to get online to see his stories in the "San Francisco Chronicle," proof he was a reporter.

(on camera): What followed was several days of tedium and terror with a twist of the absurd. The Sunni insurgents, who wanted the Americans out of Iraq, often treated him kindly. Once taking him at gunpoint to a 20-foot pit. He thought he was about to be shot. Instead, they forced him to do aerobics to keep him healthy.

SANDS: They were consistently trying to get me to eat more. It was almost like being at your grandmother's. I mean, eat more, eat more, you know, you're thin. Why are you so thin?

ROBERTSON: But always looming, he feared the day they would tell him it's time to make his hostage tape.

SANDS: I had hoped that they saw me as enough of a human being that they would shoot me instead of behead me.

ROBERTSON: And then unexpectedly on his fifth night, his ordeal suddenly came to an end.

SANDS: And then the door just kind of exploded open. And very quickly two American soldiers were coming into the room. As this young soldier lifted his flashlight in my face, he obviously saw that I wasn't an Iraqi. And I said to him, I'm a British journalist. I was kidnapped.

ROBERTSON: Thirty minutes later, Phil Sands was on a helicopter. And with his typical British reserve, thanking his rescuers.

SANDS: I sat there and said, gentlemen, it's very nice to see you all. And I'd just like to thank you because I think you saved my life.

ROBERTSON: His last story there was his own story, a story about a very lucky man.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


COOPER: Well, millions of people get on airplanes every year, but how many know what to do if the plane goes down? Do you? Coming up, how to increase your odds of surviving a plane crash.

CNN's Gary Tuchman shows you the steps that might just save your life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brace! Hold tight! All right, stay in your seats. Get the window open now.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evacuate. Leg, body, leg. Release your seatbelts. Come this way. Leave everything.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When we hit, we hit hard. It felt like the plane was going down a road filled with potholes that were six to 12 inches deep and just literally, just shaking. We heard a flight attendant announce, ladies and gentlemen, everything's OK. I could smell some kind of petroleum gasoline smell at that point in time. Everything was not OK.


COOPER: When you get on a plane, the last thing you want to do is dwell on the possibility of crashing, but not preparing for the possibility could cost you your life. In a plane crash, passengers often have just seconds to get out before fire or smoke kills them.

CNN's Gary Tuchman has been at a training session with actual flight attendants, learning how to get out of a plane fast and safely. They used a corporate jet simulator, but the lessons you are about to see are the same for commercial jets.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just informed me that we have an engine fire and the fire is on this side of the aircraft. Therefore, we're going to use this exit right over here. If I'm not able to open this, will you will be able to open it for me?

TUCHMAN: Yes, I will. Yes, I will.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is how you're going to do it. To remove the cover, pull down on the C-handle. Take both handles on each side of the exit and evacuate leg, body, leg.

TUCHMAN: We're definitely going to crash, there's a fire?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. There is a fire in the cabin. There is smoke in here. There is nothing I can do about it. So, please, bring your shirt up over your nose and mouth and breathe through it.

In the meantime, I need you to move over there, quick, now. Get your seat belts on, everybody. This is your brace position. I want you to lean completely over. Grab your arms and the back side of your leg. OK? Very good.

You, put your feet flat on the floor, heads are back.

You two, go all the way down. Grab your ankles on the back side of your legs.

OK, very good. You all can relax. I'll call for that command 10 seconds before landing.

TUCHMAN: OK, this could be the abridged version, so let's go 30 seconds before the crash now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. All right, there's the 30 seconds. If you have any sharp items on you, I need you to remove those. Your eyeglasses, take those off, put them in your chair. Any sharp items, pass them to me immediately.

We are getting closer to landing. Everybody, put your seat belts on. Make sure they are tight. We're going to meet 100 yards away from the aircraft. Stay in a group.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ten seconds. Ten seconds to landing.

TUCHMAN: Ten seconds, everybody. Ten seconds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace!

TUCHMAN: Hold on!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight! Hold! Hold tight! Hold tight! Brace! Brace! Hold tight!

All right, stay in your seats. Gary, get the window open now.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Evacuate. Leg, body, leg. Release your seatbelts. Come this way. Leave everything.

TUCHMAN: My job is to help other people out, but I'm going to come down and finish this off. I mean to be -- usually, but to defend yourself, the most important tip they gave us when we took this training earlier today, know exactly how many rows you're away from the exit row when you sit down on your plane because as you can see, there is no way to see.

Flying it is good to know where that exit row, how many rows away it is from you when you're sitting in your seat on a plane flight.


COOPER: Bethany Hamilton, a competitive surfer, lost her left arm and almost her life when she was attacked by a shark. She was only 13 years old at the time. She nearly bled to death, but somehow managed to keep her cool. Her amazing survival story, ahead on 360.


BETHANY HAMILTON, SHARK ATTACK VICTIM: Shark just like came up and attacked me and it like kind of pulled me back and forth.



COOPER: 13-year-old Bethany Hamilton didn't plan on becoming a statistic, the victim of a shark attack. She was just doing what she loves, having an ordinary day in the water. And then suddenly, she had to fight to stay alive.


COOPER (voice-over): Barely a teenager, Bethany Hamilton was already an inspiration. A real life surfer girl competing at the national level and determined to live out her dream. Nothing was going to stop her. On Halloween 2003, however, something almost did. As Bethany was surfing off the Hawaiian coast, a massive tiger shark, 14 feet long, was following her. It was a gray blur in the water, and it struck in an instant.

BETHANY HAMILTON, SHARK ATTACK VICTIM: I didn't see the shark in advance, but as soon as it happened, I knew what happened.

COOPER: The shark let go after a few seconds, but the damage was done. Bethany's left arm was severed at the shoulder. She lost 70 percent of her blood. And if not for a quick-thinking friend, Bethany may never have made it out alive.

HAMILTON: He just got a surfboard leash, which is like a thin plastic rubber. So it was kind of like the perfect thing. I guess the doctors said that was one thing that definitely saved me.

COOPER: Enough of the bleeding was stopped and Bethany was pulled to shore.

Her recovery since then is nothing short of remarkable. Within three weeks, she was back on her board, searching for the perfect wave.

HAMILTON: I guess all I can say is my love for surfing just is what brought me back out there. I love being in the ocean and the beach and it was just one thing I had to do, wanted to do. Fall off a horse, get back on.

COOPER: Since the attack, Bethany's amazing story has only gotten better. In part, she says, due to her faith in God. She's now competing at the pro ranks, is racking up medals and just last year took first place in one national surfing competition.

At 16, she has also a keen business sense, with several major endorsements and a growing franchise of merchandise, including fragrances, accessories and surfboards. She's written two books and a film is in the works. As for sharks...

HAMILTON: They always come up in my mind now, but I try not to think about it. I just want to have -- mostly have fun.

COOPER: To the many people that look up to her, Bethany's message is as clear as the water she rides on.

HAMILTON: To like encourage people and let then know that, like, they can do whatever they want if they just set their heart to it and just never give up and just go out there and do it.


COOPER: In a moment, you're going to meet two more teenagers who almost lost their lives at sea. They set out on a fishing trip that quickly turned into a hellish odyssey. What saved them, next on 360.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, the first time I actually got mad at God in my life. But I never thought that would happen. But I just -- I was really confused and I was just asking him why me? Like, what did I do to deserve this?




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in a bungalow with my friend, Ben. And I heard roaring sound, which I thought was very peculiar. And the next moment I saw some water rushing by the bungalow. And then instantaneously it was like a truck crashed through the wall.


COOPER: Our special edition of 360, "Against all Odds: Survivor Stories," continues now. Two teenage boys setting out to fish off the cost of South Carolina. It doesn't get much more ordinary than that. But for Josh Long and Troy Driscoll, ordinary quick turned to horrifying.

Here's CNN's Chris Lawrence.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The two boys were drifting in the Atlantic. 3:00 in the morning, pitch black. They had been praying for a boat, a boat big enough and close enough to rescue them.

JOSH LONG, SURVIVED AT SEA: ... like a loud roar.

LAWRENCE: Instead, an enormous freighter almost killed them.

LONG: I went in shock. As soon as I saw the boat, I just froze up. I couldn't move.


TROY DRISCOLL, SURVIVED AT SEA: And when you looked up, the boat's like...

LONG: And all of a sudden his weight just lifted us up, laid the boat on the side, and then pushed us out of the way.


DRISCOLL: Water came in.


LONG: It was scary.

LAWRENCE: The big container ship didn't even slow down, probably because its crew never knew the little boat was there.

When Troy Driscoll climbed back in, he was just about ready to give up.

DRISCOLL: Actually, the first time I actually got mad at God in my life. But -- I never thought that would happen, but I just -- I was really confused and I was just asking him, why me? Like, what did I do to deserve this?

LAWRENCE: They went out for a morning of fishing, just off the beach near Charleston, South Carolina.

LONG: And we just put the boat in right here. And there's a sand bar back there, we're just going to paddle straight across to the sand bar.

LAWRENCE: A rip tide caught their boat, started dragging them out to sea. They thought about swimming back to shore, but Josh remembered what his grandfather taught him, stay with the boat.

LONG: Just because I didn't have flares and I didn't have this and that, doesn't mean that he didn't teach me what I needed to know.

LAWRENCE: Their boat had no sail and one paddle. The Atlantic currents knocked them around for six days. The sun beating down. They went swimming to cool off, careful not to swim too long.

LONG: You would be in the water for 10, 20 minutes and you'd have to get out because the sharks would be coming around.

LAWRENCE: A few times a day they'd gargle handfuls of salt water.

LONG: It was bad. So I tried just tried not to drink it. Sometimes you just couldn't help it. You needed something down there.

LAWRENCE: And when the sun went down, they hugged each other to stay warm.

LONG: At night the waves were so bad and they were just coming over the side of the boat. And couldn't sleep, so we'd sleep in the water. And it was freezing cold.

LAWRENCE: Josh and Troy talked openly about dying, but feel they survived because of their faith.

LONG: We would pray to God and say if it's not your will for us to live, then just let us come home. I said we can at least watch our families from up in heaven.

LAWRENCE: They drifted for six long days before a fishing boat rescued them, off the coast of Cape Fear, more than 100 miles from where they put to sea.

(on camera): What was your first thought when you actually got a look at that boat that they rode out there for six days? PETTY OFFICER DANA WARR: It was amazing. It was utterly amazing.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Petty Officer Dana Warr says the Coast Guard scoured the ocean for three days. But with no sign of the boys, they had to call off the search.

WARR: They didn't have any safety or survival gear, so for them to be alive, it's extremely lucky.

LAWRENCE: What some would call pure luck, these kids call a miracle.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Charleston, South Carolina.


COOPER: The U.S. Coast Guard wasn't able to fine Josh and Troy, but not for lack of trying. Fact is finding a lost boater is incredibly difficult. And often the Coast Guard has few facts to go on.

Pay close attention now because there are things you can do to boost your odds of surviving if you're lost at sea.

Here again is CNN's Rick Sanchez.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a visual. Starboard bow. Going down. Coming right. Coming to starboard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got them on my radar. Got them on my radar.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): The U.S. Coast Guard, demonstrating their precision. A boat or boater is lost at sea. Their job is to search and rescue. As they peer toward the horizon, they know that somewhere out there, someone is desperately hoping to be found.

MICHAEL GERVISS, U.S. COAST GUARD: We're sent on scene to respond to a man in the water or a vessel that went down. We had got on scene to the last known position, we didn't find them. At that point we did what's -- what we commenced what's called the victor sierra search.

SANCHEZ: Victor sierra is a search conducted using a series of calculations, factors like when the boater left, where he was last seen, the wind and current conditions. It is an inexact science that relies as much on persistence and experience as on any particular instrument. And there's no guarantee of success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes the information's not accurate. Sometimes we'll get a search where the communications get cut off before we get all the details and we don't know exactly what we're looking for or where we're looking for.

SANCHEZ (on camera): And then it's really like finding a needle in the haystack.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): And the odds get even worse. If they're looking not for a boat, but for a person.

We experienced it firsthand by going out about a mile offshore and jumping overboard. Nothing more than a life vest.

(on camera): It's amazing when you get here, your line of sight is literally covered or obstructed by most of these waves. You can't see what's on the other side of the waves. And unfortunately, in a rescue situation it's harder for them to see you as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The rougher it is, the harder it is to spot it, especially because if it gets choppy up here, you may think you saw something for a second and then you get behind a wave and you may not see it again for another five minutes.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): That is why it's important to wear a life vest that's approved by the Coast Guard. Bright reflective colors, like orange that stand out against the blue green surface of the water. Experts also advise that you conserve your energy. Don't splash. Try to keep both arms folded and legs crossed.

(on camera): The longer you're out here, the more you increase the chances of dehydration, hypothermia and exhaustion. Together, those three things make it more difficult for you to be able to help yourself while the Coast Guard are trying to find you.

As planned, the 41-footer has spotted me in the water and is in the process of executing a rescue operation. Because we're out so far from shore, I'm figuring they couldn't get to me soon enough.

As a human being, once you're in the water for a long period of time, you start to realize that you've just dropped to the very bottom of the food chain. There's about 1,000 feet of water under you and who knows what kind of animals.

(voice-over): For us and Coast Guard officials, it is a worthwhile exercise that can save lives. For people that have actually lived through this ordeal, it is a moment frozen in time.

Rick Sanchez, CNN, off the coast of Florida.


COOPER: This special edition of 360, "Against All Odds: Survivor Stories," continues in a moment.


COOPER: And that wraps up this special hour of 360. Thanks for joining us. We hope you never have to use the lessons and the survivor stories you heard tonight. But if you do, we hope they keep you safe.

"LARRY KING" is next.


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