Top 10 Deadliest Attempts to Break a World Record


Some world records are harmless, while others are downright dangerous. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records doesn’t even encourage people to compete for dangerous records, out of fear of people killing themselves.

With that being said, beyond the beer manufacturers’ bar bet settling book there are other records to be broken and as this list will prove, they can be deadly.

10. Lowell Bayles


The most dangerous records of all involve speed. Due to the amount of things that could go wrong, they make them both exciting and incredibly deadly.

One of the earliest deaths in the race to be fastest person on Earth was Lowell Bayles. Bayles was originally a mine engineer before he started taking flight lessons from a former World War I pilot instructor. Eventually, Bayles became a stunt pilot with a team who performed across the country.

At the 1931 National Air Races, he tried to break the speed record by going 300 MPH (482 KPH), which would make him the fastest human in history. While flying 246 feet (75 m) above the ground, Bayles achieved just that. In a freak accident, the fuel cap came loose, flew through the windshield and struck Bayles in the head, knocking him out. After losing the control of the plane, it crashed into a flame ball and Bayles was thrown 300 feet from the plane. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

9. Bert Hinkler


Bert “The Australian Lone Eagle” Hinkler was an aviator and inventor. During World War I, he worked as a gunner and observer for the Royal Naval Air Service. He invented many small gadgets that were used in planes up until the second World War. He was one of the pioneers in flight and manufactured his own planes. He was the first people to fly solo from Australia to England and the first person to fly solo across the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

On January 7, 1933, at the age of 40, Hinkler took off from the London Air Park, Hanworth, England, heading towards Australia to beat the current time of 8 days and 20 hours. Later that same day, Hinkler’s plane crashed in the Tuscon Mountains in Italy. After his body was recovered, he was given a full military burial on orders of Benito Mussolini.

8. Sailendra Nath Roy


Sailendra Nath Roy was an Indian stuntman who held two bizarre Guinness World Records, both involving his hair. He managed to pull a locomotive with his pony tail for 8.2 ft (2.5 m), and he also rode a zip line 270.6 ft (82.5 m) by using his hair.

On April 28, 2013, Roy was attempting to break his own zip line record on a 595.5 ft (180 m) line. About 300 ft (91 m) into the stunt, his hair became stuck for 30 minutes, after which he stopped moving. After hanging for 45 minutes, he was finally taken down. Roy had a massive heart attack and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.

7. Javad Palizbanian


One of the most famous long-distance jumps on a motorcycle was Evel Knievel, jumping over 14 buses in 1975 for a distance of 133 feet (40 m). It set the record for longest distance jumped, and also for most buses jumped over. Bubba Blackwell broke the record jumping over 15 buses in 1999.

That brings us to 44-year-old Iranian, Javad Palizbanian, who was trying to break the record by jumping over 22 buses parked next to each other. The distance would have been about 209 feet (63 m). While being broadcast on live television from the Azadi Sports stadium in Tehran, on August 28, 2005, Palizbanian said “I am going to do something for my country to be proud of.” He then slammed into the 13th bus and died on impact.

6. Brigitte Lenoir


A Rebreather is a piece of scuba equipment that recirculates air, removing the carbon dioxide, giving the wearer clean oxygen. In Rebreather deep diving, the idea is to dive as deeply as possible while wearing a Rebreather and surface without dying.

40-year-old Brigitte Lenoir from Valais, Switzerland was Rebreather diving in Dahab, Red Sea, Egypt. She was trying to beat her own record of 505 ft (154 m). Her goal for her dive on May 16, 2010 was 656 ft (200 m). Unfortunately, at 482 ft (147 m), something went wrong. This was despite the fact that there many safety precautions, including oxygen tanks on a cable which Lenoir could access, and a team of experts helping her. The most likely culprit was a faulty valve in the pure oxygen valve which causes pure oxygen poisoning. The good news is that deaths like hers are almost immediate.

5. Bill Warner


44-year old, Bill Warner, was a tropical fish farmer from Wimauma, Florida, and he held the world land speed record on a conventional motorcycle at 1.5 miles, which was 311 MPH (500.49 KPH). He achieved this world record on July 17, 2011 at Loring Timing Association’s Land Speed Races, which is held annually in Limestone, Maine.

Warner came to the 2013 Loring Timing Association’s Land Speed Races to break the land speed record on a conventional motorcycle at a 1 mile distance. On July 13, Warner accomplished that record, hitting a speed of 296 MPH (476 KPH). The next day he tried to break his own brand-new record by reaching 300 MPH (482 KPH) but after hitting 285 MPH (459 KPH) he lost control of his bike, veered to the right, and slid for 100 feet. He was conscious and talking when he was taken to the hospital, where he died an hour later.

4. Jessica Dubroff


Jessica Dubroff was a 7-year-old pilot trainee who, at the behest of her father, attempted to become the youngest person to pilot a plane across the United States. She called her coast-to-coast flight “Sea to Shining Sea”. The cute girl with big ambitions was an instant media sensation.

Since she was too young to officially hold a pilot’s license, a rated pilot had to be at the controls at all time while Dubroff flew the plane. On April 10, 1996, Dubroff, her flight instructor Joe Reid, and her father Lloyd Dubroff, took off in Reid’s Cessna 177B from Half Moon Bay, California. Their ultimate goal was to reach Cape Cod, Massachusetts. After 24 hours they landed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for a rest. The next morning, the trio tried to take off in bad weather. The plane flipped and veered to the right, landing on a residential street and killing all three passengers. An investigation into the crash showed that Reid was in control of the plane when it crashed.

3. Pyotr Dolgov


In 1962, at the height of the Cold War and the start of the space race, two Russians were attempting to break the world record for longest free fall.  Their method was to use a Volga Balloon, which is a pressurized gondola that looks like a Christmas tree bulb with a hot air balloon attached to it.

Dolgov, a Colonel in the Soviet Union Air Force and Yevgeni Nikolayevich Andreyev, also a Colonel, boarded the balloon on November 1961. Andreyev jumped from 24,500 meters (80,380 feet). Dolgov stayed in the gondola a little bit longer because he was testing a new pressure suit. He jumped 28,640 meters (93,970 ft) but cracked his visor and his suit depressurized.

Angdreyev claimed the record of 24,500 meters, which wasn’t beaten until Felix Baumgartner on October 12, 2012 who fell from a height of 39 miles (62.76 KM) above the Earth.

2. Nick Piantanida


Not to be outdone by the Commies, the Americans decided to step up the free-falling game. Nick Piantanida was selling pets when he discovered skydiving, which led to him going on hundreds of jumps. After learning the Soviets had the record for the longest free fall, Piantanida decided this was a record he had to beat.

While Piantanida was an experienced jumper, he was not a professional, nor was he in the Air Force (usually the people who perform such feats are members of the Air Force). Regardless, Piantanida was able to get funding from sponsors. He was even granted permission to use the Air Force’s training  facilities, and they lent him a pressurized suit.

On Piantanida’s first attempt, high winds tore the roof of his gondola, Strato Jump I, forcing him to jump at 16,000 ft (4,900 m) before parachuting into St. Paul, Minnesota city dump. On February 2, 1966, on his second attempt using the Strato Jump II, he reached 123,500 feet, flying higher than anyone prior to him. However, he could not detach his oxygen hose and had to detach the balloon from the gondola. According to Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, since he returned to Earth without the balloon, he didn’t get the official record. Also, since he didn’t jump he didn’t get a parachute record either.

On his third attempt on May 1, 1966, at the 57,000 ft (17373 m) mark his suit depressurized. The control room immediately released the parachute on the gondola. Piantanida was alive when the gondola reached the Earth, but the lack of oxygen caused him to go into a coma, and he died 4 months later.

1. Donald Campbell


Donald Campbell was a British land speed and water speed record holder. In fact, he is the only person to ever break both records in one year.

Campbell’s father, Sir Malcolm Campbell. was famous for his water speed records. When Malcolm passed away from a series of strokes, he was still the fastest man on water. Campbell carried on the tradition, using his father’s boat the Bluebird. Campbell eventually reached a record speed of 276.33 mph (444.71 KPH) on December 31, 1964.

After conquering the water, Campbell wanted to get the land speed record, which was 394 MPH (634 KPH). To accomplish this, Campbell built Bluebird CN7, a car with a turbine engine. He then achieved the record, reaching a speed of 403.1 MPH (648.73 KMH).

Campbell decided that progress needed to move quickly, so he started designing a car that could break the Mach barrier. He designed the Bluebird Mach 1.1, which was supposed to go faster than the speed of sound —  767 MPH (1,234 KPH). Using a rocket, the Bluebird Mach 1.1 was supposed to reach 840 MPH (1,350 KPH).

In order to raise publicity for his Bluebird Mach 1.1 run, Campbell decided to break the water speed record. On January 4, 1967, Campbell took his first attempt to reach 300 MPH (483 KPH), but he fell short hitting an average speed of 297.6 mph (479 KPH). Instead of refueling, Campbell decided to try it again. On his second attempt, he did a somersault in the air before crashing back into the water, which killed him.

After his death, Campbell’s design for the Bluebird Mach 1.1 was scrapped. No one reached the 300 MPH mark on water until 1978, and the sound barrier wasn’t broken on land until 1997.

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