They Fell From the Skies and Lived to Tell the Tale

Shayna Richardson, then 21, also spun out of control and survived on a skydive, on Oct. 9, 2005 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

Richardson thought she was jumping solo as her fiance and skydive instructor, Rick West, jumped separately with a video camera rolling. Later, she discovered at the hospital that she wasn't exactly alone. She was three weeks pregnant.

West, who jumped after her, yelled instructions as she spun downward at 50 mph. But she was unable to right herself and crashed face-down into a parking lot.

"I let go of my steering toggles, and I just asked God to take away the pain of the impact," she told ABC News' "Good Morning America" in December 2005, two months after her ill-fated jump. "I told him I was ready to go home. I just didn't want to feel that pain."

A church group on a lunch outing had already reached her side and called 911 by the time he got to her side, West said.

"She was saying to me, 'Is that you?' ... and, 'I'm alive?'" West told "I said, 'Yeah, you're alive and you're going to be OK.' ... I was just thinking the whole time: 'This girl is going to die.'"

She lived, married West and now goes by the name Shayna West. They have two children, including four-year-old Tanner, the boy with whom she was pregnant on her skydive.

"Tanner was my guardian angel that day. I just know it. I feel it," she told "Good Morning America" in March 2007. "He was my reason to fight. ... I had things left to do on this Earth. I still don't know for sure what those things are. One of them, for sure, is my baby."

But the Wests have endured considerable pain from their accident -- facing financial hardship as Shayna West has undergone reconstructive surgeries on her face and recovery from a broken pelvis and other injuries.

Still, like other survivors, they seem to consider themselves lucky.

"There is no logical explanation of why I lived," Shayna West said in 2005. "It simply comes down to God had his hand in that."

Long Fall Survival: 'Amazing Combination of Luck' and Favorable Physics

People who experience long falls often cite a sense of divine intervention though, as with all of the common threads, there are exceptions.

Jim Hamilton, who runs The Free Fall Research Page, is skeptical of divine intervention theories because many of the falls lead to extreme injuries or the deaths of others -- as with Alcides Moreno, the New York window washer who survived a 43-story fall in December 2007 by clinging to a scaffold while his brother died in the same fall.

Expert observers say it usually takes a scaffold, a tree, a deflated balloon, a partially open parachute or some other object to cushion a fall or create enough drag so it's possible a person can survive -- that, plus "some amazing combination of luck," Hamilton said.

"It's just extremely rare where somebody has just fallen with nothing out and survived that impact because they're likely falling at 120 mph," said Ed Scott, executive director of the U.S. Parachute Association, referring to a typical terminal velocity of a free-falling person. "The scenario of falling without anything above you and surviving that fall, that's almost unheard of."

All-Time Amazing Stories

However, there are stories that come close.

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