Follow TV Tropes

Following

Series / Seconds from Disaster

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/logo_of_seconds_from_disaster.png

"Disasters don't just happen. They're a chain of critical events. Unravel the fateful decisions in those final, Seconds from Disaster."
Advertisement:

Seconds from Disaster is a Documentary series on the National Geographic Channel. The program investigates historically relevant man-made and natural disasters. Each episode aims to explain a single incident by analyzing the causes and circumstances that ultimately affected the disaster. The series uses re-enactments, interviews, testimonies, and CGI to analyze the sequence of events second-by-second for the audience.

Narrators for the show include Ashton Smith (American narrator for seasons 1 to 3), Richard Vaughan (British narrator for seasons 1 and 2; narrator from season 4 onwards) and Peter Guinness (British narrator for season 3).


Advertisement:

Seconds from Disaster provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot:
    • "Crash Landing at Sioux City". The pilots kept the plane in the air until they could land at an airport with emergency crews waiting, despite the loss of all hydraulic controls, saving the lives of many (though tragically not all) the passengers and preventing ground fatalities.. Part of this was that one of the pilots (who had actually been on the plane as a passenger before the crisis hit) had studied the crash mentioned in...
    • "Terrified over Tokyo". The skill of the pilots again likely saved many lives on the ground in getting the plane out of anywhere populated. Also, they kept the plane flying longer than anyone running the same situation in a simulator ever has. In addition, had the JSDF arrived in time, they would have been able to save many more people than just the four survivors. A number of passengers in the tail sectionnote  survived the crash, only to die of hypothermia and untreated injuries in the ensuing hours.
    • Advertisement:
    • "Collision on the Runway" is a deconstruction. The pilot of the KLM flight was held in high regard by the airline because of his extensive experience— which possibly led to his crew and even air traffic control deferring to his wishes when they absolutely should not have done so.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Compare the actor playing Vitaly Kaloyev in "Death in Mid-Air" to the real Vitaly Kaloyev.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Nearly every episode interviews at least one person who lost a relative or loved one in the disaster.
    • "Amsterdam Air Crash/Schiphol Plane Crash/Plane Crash in the Suburbs": Two parents leave their children home alone to visit some friends a few blocks away. Minutes later, a jumbo jet crashes directly into their apartment.
  • Anyone Can Die: Or be seriously injured and/or permanently disabled. While not 100% effective for the sake of drama (since some people are interviewed later after the re-enactment unfolds), a good way to tell if someone is dead is if they're mentioned but never interviewed, or if other people, usually relatives, refer to them in past-tense.
    • At some point, the producers got Genre Savvy and would occasionally withhold interviews with a victim until the episode revealed that person was alive. See, for example, one survivor's younger sister in the Bali nightclub episode, or the final survivor rescued from the Sampoong department store collapse.
  • Anachronism Stew: In the "Chicago Air Crash" episode, set in 1979, on some of the scenes on the escalator, you can see an LCD display showing the flight times. They were not widely used until the late 2000s.
  • Apocalypse Cult:
    • "Waco Cult", the story of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.
    • "Jonestown Cult Suicide", one of the worst peacetime mass suicides/mass homicides inspired by religion in recent history.
  • Artistic License – History: In "Sinking of the Titanic" the narrator names Newfoundland as a part of Canada. Newfoundland was still a separate dominion of the British Empire in 1912, not joining Canada until 1949.
  • Atomic Hate:
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: One episode focuses on the Attack on Pearl Harbor, and how the Japanese made it a disaster... for themselves.
  • Buried Alive
    • The survivors from the Hotel New World were trapped under the rubble for several days before rescuers were able to retrieve them.
    • When the Hyatt Regency walkways collapsed, a number of people who were on the ground floor and the lower walkway were buried. In this case, all of the surviving victims were rescued within hours of the incident.
    • One of the survivors interviewed in the Sampoong Department Store episode was trapped in the rubble for over a week, due in part to the government's decision to prematurely halt rescue efforts only a few days after the disaster because they thought there was no way anyone was still alive. The end of the episode reveals that she wasn't the last person left alive in the building either; another woman was pulled out a shocking seventeen days after the collapse.
  • The Cassandra:
    • Multiple people on Montserrat mentioned that the volcano was soon to erupt. The same thing happened at Mount St. Helens.
    • Especially bad in the episode about the Puerto Rico shoe store. The retelling of the disaster has him insisting that something is wrong, that there is some kind of a gas leak, and how he had a bad feeling. Turns out he was right...
  • Chekhov's Volcano: At least two, for the eruptions at Soufrière Hills and Mount St. Helens are also shown as episodes.
  • Colony Drop: Following Columbia's breakup, around 84,000 pieces of the shuttle rained down across East Texas and Louisiana. Miraculously, despite some close calls, nobody was injured.
  • Computer-Generated Images: A selling point of the series.
    Narrator: Advanced computer simulation will take us to where no camera can go... into the heart of the disaster zone.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Several disasters featured in-series are found to be the result of good old-fashioned corruption and cutting corners on safety regulations at the behest of a high-ranking suit trying to save money.
    • "Skywalk Collapse": The collapse of the Hyatt skywalk, caused by the actual building of the skywalk not matching the engineering blueprints (which would themselves have been strong enough except that they were unbuildable), with no load testing before opening to the public. The skywalk was therefore too weak to support the amount of people who crowded onto it, causing the disaster.
    • "Superstore Collapse/Department Store Collapse": The collapse of the Sanpoong Department Store is ultimately attributed to repeated professional negligence on the part of the store owners, who approved reducing the strength of the building's support structure and adding loads exceeding what the building was designed for, in order to increase profits by expanding the commercial floor space.
    • "Bhopal Nightmare": Corruption and cut corners in the management and maintenance of a Union Carbide pesticide factory, solely due to the desire for extra profits, was the cause of one of the most deadly chemical accidents in history. Worse, due to a cover-up and blaming employees, the Corrupt Corporate Executive involved got away with zero consequences.
  • Crying Wolf: In "Paris Train Crash", it's noted that the brake system was known to overload and jam when the emergency brake was pulled, so when the driver found that the brakes wouldn't release after he reset the emergency brake, he (rather understandably) believed that it was the same malfunction, rather than realizing that he had actually tripped a failsafe designed to stop the train from moving with insufficient brake power. Adding to the problem was that there were no additional indicators to tell the driver that he had a brake pressure problem.
  • Death of a Child: This happens in quite a number of disasters - in fact, the show goes to great pains to highlight just how many (often small) children die in these disasters just to drive the tearjerker factor in even further. It's even more gut-wrenching when the parents are interviewed. A perfect example of this is the episode covering the Oklahoma City bombing. It's highly stressed that there are several children in a daycare directly above where Timothy McVeigh's bomb exploded, and that the grandson of one of the people interviewed was there. The grandson survives, albeit with serious injuries, but it's noted that he was one of very few survivors from that daycare; most of the children were not so lucky. Especially tragic since this was a deliberate terrorist act rather than a freak accident.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Investigating how these unfold in Real Life disasters is the premise of the series.
    • "Collision on the Runway": A bomb planted in Gran Canaria Airport kicks off a series of events that would lead to two fully loaded Boeing 747s colliding on the runway at Los Rodeos Airport over 100 kilometers away, resulting in the deaths of 583 people in the worst accident in aviation history. The bomb led to the planes diverting to Los Rodeos. The hot weather at Los Rodeos led to most of the passengers disembarking for the terminal. Once all the passengers made it back, a pair of children were unaccounted for, causing the Pan-Am flight to be delayed and put immediately behind the KLM flight. The delay meant that both planes were taxiing through the fog. The fog necessitated communication through radio by the pilots, but a technical glitch meant that they couldn't understand each other. This miscommunication was what made the disaster from this point onwards irreversible.
    • "Explosion in the North Sea": The loss of the Piper Alpha oil rig was the result of a chain of events that ultimately stemmed from a bad paperwork system. During the recap, the narrator even points out four links in the chain that, had any one of them been done differently, would have mitigated, or even outright prevented, the disaster.
  • Exact Time to Failure: An iconic feature of the series, every significant event in the timeline is listed with an exact time to the moment of disaster.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The "Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster" wouldn't have happened if anyone had noticed that the doors connecting the ferry's car deck to the outside world had been left open.
  • Failsafe Failure: Many disasters featured occurred as failsafes in place were overwhelmed, out-of-order, or unwittingly disabled through human error.
    • In "Paris Train Crash/Runaway Train", the train driver releases air from all the brakes of his train to overcome a mis-diagnosed clog in the air-brake system. Instead, he unwittingly sabotages an automated failsafe that locks the air brakes of his train if air-pressure in the brake system is dangerously low. This leads to a literal train wreck when he is unable to stop his train from crashing into a stationary one further up the line.
  • For Want of a Nail: Often a major final or initiating factor in the disaster.
    • "Comet Air Crash/Crash of the Comet": The decision to secure a window with rivets instead of glue (as originally designed) left a microscopic manufacturing defect in the fuselage of BOAC Flight 781. Over time, the defect grew into a fatigue crack. The fatigue crack then failed, leading to Explosive Decompression, causing the crash of the Comet. The crash crippled the promised rise of British Aviation company de Havilland, allowing two companies, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas to leave them in the dust forever. Also, the subsequent inquiry into the crash resulted in unprecedented investigative techniques (such as wreckage reassembly) being developed; techniques that form the cornerstone of accident investigations to this day.
    • "Paris Train Crash/Runaway Train": While trying to reset the emergency brake cord, the train driver accidentally pulls shut a valve supplying air to his train's brakes. This leaves him unable to stop his train at the end of the line, resulting in the Gare de Lyon rail accident.
      • Not to mention that the entire sequence of events would never have happened if the emergency brake hadn't been pulled in the first place.
    • "Inferno in Guadalajara": One very small water pipe bent over a gas main, as well as creating a U-bend in the main sewer line in order to get a subway tunnel through, eventually causes a massive sequential explosion which kills over 200, cripples many more, and causes hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.
    • Essentially the same thing happened four years later in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this time with a propane pipe cracking under the weight of settling concrete and groundfill above due to a sharp bend; the Guadalajara explosion is even referenced and footage from that episode shown.
    • The faulty experimental engine which downed British Midlands Flight 092 and caused a couple other planes to make emergency landings was never tested in flight prior to release, instead being only wind-tunnel tested; a flight test would almost surely have uncovered the weak fan blade design.
    • "Crash of the Concorde": A strip of metal that had fallen off another plane and was lying on the runway burst one of the Concorde's tires, which sent debris into the undercarriage that severed a wire and knocked fuel loose from one of the tanks, setting the plane's wing on fire.
    • "Collision on the Runway" is loaded with these. Even by the standards of a show that deals in Disaster Dominoes, an absurd number of factors had to come together for the accident to happen; the lack of any one of them would have averted the accident.
      • The most blatant single example is that when the KLM pilot said he was ready to take off, the tower told him to "stand by for takeoff", while the Pan Am tried to warn him that they were still on the runway. Either message alone would have conveyed to the captain that he needed to wait, but because both were sent at the same instant, the KLM radio could not process them and drowned out both messages in a burst of static.
    • "Columbia's Last Flight": A piece of foam from the external tank broke off during takeoff and hit the leading-edge tip of Columbia's left wing. This had been a longtime problem with the shuttle program, dating all the way back to the first mission, and nothing too serious came of it before. This time, however, the foam just happened to hit a critical spot on the ship's wing, allowing hot gases to seep in during the shuttle's reentry, tearing it apart.
  • Going Critical: Two disasters are nuclear meltdowns, though this trope is averted as both are depicted accurately:
    • "Meltdown in Chernobyl": A steam explosion blows the roof and containment off of the Chernobyl reactor, leading to a massive, uncontrolled release of radioactive material and one of the two worst peacetime nuclear disasters of human history.
    • "Fukushima": Damage from a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami, loss of power related to it, and a build-up of hydrogen leads to a meltdown and explosions that damage the containment of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, leading to the second worst peacetime nuclear disaster of human history-one that's still ongoing today.
  • Heroic Bystander: Many episodes mention the heroics of average people stepping up to save others. In some, they even manage to bring the individual(s) in question for an interview.
    • "Collision on the Runway": Jack Ridout, a passenger on Pan Am Flight 1736, barely survives the horrific side-on collision with KLM Flight 4805. Although injured and suffering burn wounds, he opens one of the aircraft's exits and braves the burning plane to help several passengers exit the aircraft. He is credited with saving 12 lives. In context, he and the 12 are among the 61 people that escaped the Pan Am alive.
    • "Zeebrugge Ferry Disaster/Capsized in the North Sea": In the wake of the capsizing of the Herald of Free Enterprise, stories of heroism include a man acting as a human bridge to allow others to escape, and a truck driver saving a five-year-old girl, who lost the rest of her family in the capsize.
    • "Crash Landing at Sioux City": Jerry Schemmel, who survived the crash landing with minor injuries, quickly reached the exit of the plane. Before he could get out, he heard the cries of a baby amid the flames. Without a second thought, he darted back into the wreckage and carried the child to safety.
    • "Plane Crash in the Potomac" has a bystander in the crowd on the bridge over the river dive into the freezing cold waters to save a terribly injured woman from drowning after she managed to escape the plane crash but was unable to hold onto a dangled life preserver from an overhead rescue helicopter.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The series often features individuals that went above and beyond, giving their lives to save others from the disaster.
    • "Paris Train Crash/Runaway Train": André Tanguy, the driver of the stationary train in the path of the unstoppable runaway one, frantically warned his passengers over the intercom to evacuate. Staring death in the face, he stayed at his post repeating the warning until the two trains collided head-on, killing him instantly. He is named the hero of the accident, credited with saving dozens of lives.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Occasionally it's played straight, though not in a good way since in most cases the children's parents die, such as the girl in the Zeebrugge example above.
  • It's Probably Nothing: In many cases, there are warning signs before the disaster occurs, but these warnings are dismissed.
    • In Guadalajara, gasoline starts coming out of taps and showers in nearby homes, but no one considers evacuating.
    • Before the collapse of the Hotel New World, debris starts falling, and the hotel's supporting columns and walls visibly crack. Nobody appears to understand the implications of this before the entire building goes down.
    • Similarly, in the Sampoong Department Store, signs of the building's instability were visible before the collapse, but the owners chose not to shut the store down because they didn't want to lose business by being closed.
    • Prior to the Uberlingen disaster, two other planes came dangerously close to colliding under nearly identical circumstances. This close call should have been a major warning to fix a flaw in the system, but was largely ignorednote . Instead, the same problem occurred again, and this time the pilots were unable to avert tragedy.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The Boeing 757 featured in the episode about the Uberlingen mid-air collision is an example of this; Boeing 757s are best known for their wide and round nose, with the cockpit situated pretty close to it; in the episode, the CGI 757 has an oddly pointy nose with the cockpit set back, making it look somewhat like a 747 without the hump and upper deck, when viewed at a glance.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The Texas City explosion would have been averted had it not been for one worker carelessly leaving his truck running next to the blowdown stack that began to malfunction a few minutes later. As far as official sources state, he was never prosecuted for his negligence.
    • The passenger who pulled the emergency brake on the train that went on to be involved in the Gare de Lyon rail accident minutes later because she missed her stop. While a more minor example than the others in this list, this set in motion the events that ultimately caused the accident.note 
    • Everyone from the CEO to the plant managers of the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. No one was found guilty of the massive corruption and negligence that led to the deaths and suffering that resulted from a completely preventable chemical disaster, to the degree that calling Bhopal an "accident" is almost insufficient.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • "Inferno in Guadalajara": The chain of explosions was likely set off by a spark created when a utility worker trying to fix the gasoline odors slammed down a manhole cover.
    • "Meltdown in Chernobyl": A safety test conducted by inexperienced employees kicked off the disaster.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Pearl Harbor attack is seen as a Japanese disaster, rather than an American one. Among other reasons, the Japanese airmen missed hitting important facilities such as dry docks, sub pens, and fuel storage tanks near the harbor, opting instead to attack the American battleships docked at Battleship Row. Worse, their intended primary targets, the American aircraft carriers, were not in the harbor at the time of the attack. Also overlaps with Awakening the Sleeping Giant, considering what happens to the carriers and men that partook in the attack only months later.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Plays out with horrific consequences in a few episodes.
    • "Terrified Over Tokyo": Part of the reason that the Japanese authorities don't rush to the accident site is that they assume everyone's dead anyway. When they finally do arrive, they not only find four people alive, they also find that others had survived the crash but had died waiting for rescue.
    • "Superstore Collapse": After just a few days, government officials assert that they don't believe anyone is left alive in the remains of the building. Not only does this leave Yoo Ji-Hwan and Park Seung-hyun trapped far longer than they might have been otherwise, but the suggestion is made that other survivors might have been killed by the debris-clearing efforts, since crews were operating under the assumption that there was no one alive that they had to worry about.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Ironically averted in "Fire on the Ski Slope". The train that caught fire fulfilled all safety regulations. However, said regulations were hopelessly outdated, as they did not take electric power, the hydraulic braking system or the fan heaters that started the fire into account.
  • Oh, Crap!: Multiple moments:
    • Dr. Bendaari upon learning the residents of Bhopal have been exposed to MIC, and that it's a life-or-death struggle that no conventional eye drops will help.
    • Geoff Bollands, with a closeup of his eyes, when he notices the pressure gauge of Piper Alpha’s gas pipes are at critical levels, just before the first explosion.
    • Ryūjirō Takami, just moments before his train derails in Amagasaki.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Literally in some cases.
    • "Meltdown in Chernobyl": The technicians performing the test had no way of telling each other what they were doing, causing them to repeatedly over-correct for each other's mistakes without actually realizing what those mistakes were.
    • "Explosion in the North Sea": The Piper Alpha disaster happened because an LPG pump was turned on, despite having had a vital safety valve removed for maintenance. The paperwork that said the valve had been removed was stored in a different box from the paperwork for the pump itself, because the two parts were technically in different sections of the rig.
    • "Collision on the Runway": A massive number of these of these leads to the pilot of KLM Flight 4805 believing he's been cleared for takeoff, when Pan Am Flight 1736 was still on the runway. Most critically, two transmissions that would have alerted him to his error end up blocking each other out on the radio (which wasn't designed to receive transmissions from more than one source at a time), so the KLM crew only hears static and doesn't get either transmission.
    • "Paris Train Crash/Runaway Train": Had the driver of the inbound train properly identified himself, the signallers wouldn't have had to implement the General Closure procedure, and would have been able to divert the runaway train to an empty platform.
    • "Titanic/Sinking of the Titanic": The wireless operator for the SS Californian tried to warn nearby ships of icebergs in the area. Unfortunately, he didn't properly announce himself, and was using much less sensitive equipment than the Titanic, so he was told by the Titanic's operator to get off the frequency. He went to bed after that, and missed the Titanic's SOS signal.
    • "9/11": Crucial information that the CIA had gathered on numerous suspected terrorists was not given to the FBI, allowing them to sneak into the United States undetected.
    • "Collision at 35,000 Feet/Death in Mid-Air": The pilots of the Bashkirian flight had been trained, in the event of conflicting orders from air traffic control and their TCAS system, to ignore the TCAS system, the opposite of every other country, resulting in both planes descending to the same altitude. The overworked air-traffic controller also mistakenly told the Bashkirian crew that the DHL flight was approaching from the right, when it was in fact approaching from the left.
  • Retirony: Edward Smith was to make one last trip across the Atlantic as ship's captain before retiring. Unfortunately he was to captain the doomed Titanic.
  • Shown Their Work: One of the most famous survivors of the USS Forrestal disaster was actually future US Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain; in fact, the plane hit was either McCain's or the one right next to it (there was too much damage to tell after the fact exactly which plane was hit). His name is never spoken in the episode, but a brief shot of an assignment board does show the name McCain listed.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: Several cases.
    • The RMS Titanic, one of the most infamous examples, is covered as the 1st episode of the 3rd season.
    • The USS Arizona, part of the Pearl Harbor episode, explodes after being hit by a Japanese bomb on its forward ammunition magazine, and sinks within minutes.
    • The German battleship Bismarck, which sinks after a relentless pursuit by the Royal Navy. In the same episode, HMS Hood is sunk by the former only days prior, killing all but 3 of the 1400-man crew.
    • HMS Coventry, which sinks after being struck by two bombs from Argentine attack aircraft during The Falklands War.
    • The MV Dona Paz collides with a tanker and sinks in the Philippine Sea, in a disaster several times the magnitude of the Titanic. Only 24 people survive out of over 4,000.
    • Subverted with the MS Scandinavian Star. While the massive fire that breaks out causes 159 fatalities onboard, the ship herself remains afloat.
    • Subverted again with the USS Forrestal. Despite the scale of the fire and the death toll on board, Damage Control manages to save the ship.
  • Stock Footage: Ubiquitous in the show, mostly from news broadcasts and other media significant to the disaster and subsequent investigation.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Exploding sewers, exploding buildings, exploding planes, and lots of things going up in smoke due to leaking fuel catching fire, not to mention actual bombs going off. The initial Guadalajara explosion was powerful enough to be picked up on seismographs, where it registered 3.3 on the Richter scale.
  • TV Documentary: The series is focused on recounting the events of a disaster, presenting the findings of the investigation, going over the aftermath, and reflecting on the disaster's significance in history.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: On a few occasions, the disaster can be traced back to the actions of a single person, and the unforeseen consequences thereof.
    • "Tunnel Inferno": The truck driver of the margarine and flour truck who only realized his load was catching fire far too late, and then left his engine running while he ran for his life.
    • "Meltdown in Chernobyl": The reactor crew performing the safety test were all this — had the test just not been done, the disaster never would have happened.
    • "Paris Train Crash/Runaway Train": The woman who pulled the emergency brake on the train had no way of knowing that the driver's attempts to reset the brake system would lead to a fatal collision.
    • "King's Cross Fire/London's Subway Inferno": The smoker who carelessly discarded their still-lit match on the escalator, starting a fire that killed 31 people. The episode even notes that, based on the evidence, this was something that happened a lot, but no one had ever really noticed because every other match had extinguished harmlessly; this one just happened to land in exactly the wrong spot.
    • "Derailment at Eschede": Had the conductor chosen to notify the driver of the train instead of going to investigate the piece of metal sticking through the floor of the train, the driver may have chosen to bring the train to a stop before it derailed.
    • "Texas Oil Explosion": The driver of the white pickup truck who left his truck parked running near the leaking blowdown stack.
    • "Death in Mid-Air": Peter Nielsen becomes this when he orders the Russian plane to descend, unknowingly contradicting their TCAS instructions. If he had said nothing, the Russian pilots would almost certainly have obeyed their TCAS system and climbed to avoid the other plane. To make matters worse, even if the Russian crew hadn't listened to TCAS and had done nothing, the DHL plane, which was descending in accordance with their own TCAS, would have passed harmlessly underneath the passenger plane. Similarly, Nielsen could have chosen to tell the Russians to climb rather than to descend, or he could have chosen to issue instruction — any instruction — to the DHL pilots, who were trained to prioritize TCAS and would likely have continued to descend regardless of what Nielsen told them to do. Instead, he inadvertently gave the one order that kept the planes on a collision course.
  • Violation of Common Sense:
    • What could've prevented the Mont Blanc Tunnel fire in "Tunnel Inferno". Due to the way forward movement was starving the lorry's air filter and/or engine fire of oxygen, if Gilbert had driven to the end of the tunnel instead of stopping halfway to inspect and extinguish the fire, the fire would've erupted outside the tunnel. In addition, if he had chosen to stop the engine instead of leaving it running, the burning cab wouldn't have continued to ingest air from around itself.
    • Also could have prevented the eponymous disaster in "Collision on the Runway". When van Zanten saw the Pan Am plane on the runway in front of him, he panicked and tried to take off even though he had insufficient speed to lift off, lifting the nose and consequently dragging the plane's tail down the runway, which slowed the plane's acceleration and actually delayed them getting up to takeoff speed. Given that even with that delay, they got off the ground at the last second (but too late to prevent a collision), had van Zanten continued to carry out the takeoff roll as if there wasn't another plane right in front of him, as crazy as that would seem to be in the moment, he almost certainly could have lifted off just in time to clear the Pan Am, making the incident a near-miss instead of a tragedy.
    • "Fire on the Ski Slope": A small group of twelve passengers, after escaping from the burning train, evacuated the tunnel by going downhill, towards the fire, but away from the smoke. These twelve ended up being the only passengers to survive, as all of the rest of them tried to flee uphill. It helped that one of them was a volunteer firefighter, who knew full well that this particular Violation of Common Sense was the smartest thing to do.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • "Jonestown Cult Suicide". Jim Jones ordered children to be killed by their own parents.
    • "Oklahoma City Bombing", Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who committed the worst act of terrorism on US soil before September 11, 2001. The childcare center in the Murrah Building was right above where his truck bomb exploded.
    • The United States of America itself, in the Nagasaki episode. The episode pays particular attention to the fact that most of the city's children had been sent out to try and build firebreaks, in anticipation of a firebombing attack similar to what happened in Tokyo. When the bomb hit, they had no chance to escape, and died instantly from the effects of the bomb.

Top