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Sole Survivor: How a 4-Year-Old Girl Got Out of a Plane Tragedy Alive

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It wasn't until she turned 30 that Cecelia spoke publicly for the first time about the tragedy that changed her life – Watch video

Η μοναδικor επι&zeta ;orσασα: Πoς ενα 4χρονο κορiτσι βγorκε ζ ωντανo απo μια αεροπορικor τραγ&omega ;δiα

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August 16, 1987

Northwest Flight 255, from Detroit to California with a stopover in Phoenix, crashes on a freeway shortly after takeoff. The crash kills 154 people on board the plane as well as two more who were in cars on the road. But one person will emerge alive from the wreckage: It is 4-year-old Cecelia Cichan.

As the investigations into the causes of the accident will later show, the crash of the plane was the result of human error.

The pilot and co-pilot did not carry out all the checks required by the pre-flight procedure, presumably in a rush to get off before the approaching bad weather.

Due to a miscommunication between the two, neither of them opened the flaps on the plane's wings, resulting in the aircraft not gaining the proper altitude during takeoff. So at the end of the runway, he crashed into light poles and a car rental office. It then crashed into a road half a mile away, where it burst into flames.

Η μοναδικor επι&zeta ;orσασα: Πoς ενα 4χρονο κορiτσι βγorκε ζ ωντανo απo μια αεροπορικor τραγ&omega ;δiα

The crash killed all the passengers and crew of the flight as well as two people on the ground. But when firefighter John Thiede approached the scene of the tragedy that rainy night, he heard moaning and spotted a small hand in the rubble. As he moved among the debris and corpses, with his flashlight, he found Cecelia, strapped to an overturned seat. She was covered in blood, had burns and broken bones, but she was alive.

From that moment, Cecelia Cichan (who has now taken her husband's name and is called Crocker), became “America's orphan”, after the accident killed her parents and her 6-year-old brother.

At the hospital where he was treated, cards, teddy bears, dolls, gifts and wishes for the little “miracle” began to arrive en masse.

The girl grew up in Alabama with her aunt and uncle, who kept her away from the media and those interested in her unique story.

It was only when she turned 30 that Cecelia spoke publicly for the first time about the tragedy that changed her life.

“I think about the accident every day. It's hard not to think about it when I look in the mirror. I have visible scars, on my arms and legs, as well as on my forehead,” he said.

And while she can't do anything about these marks on her body, she wanted to take control of her image – as much as she could – by tattooing an airplane on the inside of her wrist.

Crocker has no memory of the plane crash and admits that it took years to understand exactly what had happened to her.

“When I realized I was the only person who survived that plane crash, I was probably in middle school or high school,” he said. And he admitted that during the already difficult period of adolescence, he felt anger and the so-called survivor's guilt. “Why didn't my brother survive? Why didn't anyone survive? Why me?”, he wondered.

Despite this traumatic experience, Crocker does not hesitate to travel by plane. “Flying doesn't scare me. I have this thought that if something bad happened to me once on a plane, it's not going to happen again. The odds are simply astronomical.”

How Cecelia Cichan was saved

4-year-old Cecelia joined the list of children who became the sole survivors of similar air tragedies, reinforcing the view that children have a better chance of survival in such a case.

According to experts, children are healthier and more resilient than adults, their hearts are stronger, while their bones are still developing, which means they can be more resilient to bumps.

Furthermore, due to their small body size, they are more likely to be protected by the seats in an impact and avoid any fatal blows to the head.

But what can anyone do to increase their chances of surviving a plane crash? According to Ed Galea, a professor of mathematical modeling and engineering at the University of Greenwich, who interviewed 2,000 survivors of 105 plane crashes, one should be prepared. This means that he will have to follow the safety instructions given by the flight attendants before the flight and read the relevant card at his seat, instead of flipping through the airline magazine.

And if the plane is indeed going to crash, the best thing to do is to assume the crash position in your seat: Head down, ankles further back than the knees. This position is designed to reduce the chances of someone being hit and knocked unconscious during a strong impact. Keeping him conscious is a good first step to being able to then evacuate the plane.

Source: www.kathimerini.com.cy

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