This article was originally published on HistoricTalk
Disasters and tragic events happen all the time. They are a part of life and oftentimes unavoidable. However, it is rare for these events to be caught on camera, and it's even rarer to catch the very moment before things take place on film. In most of the photos you are about to see, everything looks perfectly fine and there is hardly even a hint of anything out of the ordinary. But once these photos were snapped, something happened that no one could anticipate.
The Ash of St. Helen's Eruption
Mount St. Helen is a mountain in Skamania County in Washington that also just happens to be volcanic. In the 1980s photographer, Robert Landsberg went to take pictures of this majestic mountain when the unexpected happened. The mountain erupted, causing widespread damage across the countryside, killing 57 people and ruining some 210 square miles of wilderness. The photographer Robert Landsberg was among the 57 people killed in this terrible explosion.
This photo (the last he ever took in his life) was of the wall of ash that erupted from the mountain. His body protected the film as he, unfortunately, passed away.
The Last Smiles of These Crew Members
Being an astronaut is the dream of so many little children all around the world, but there are few with the ability to make it to the end goal. These seven crew members of the space shuttle Challenger were all too excited for their journey into space. You can see just by the look on their faces that this was one of the most exciting moments of their entire lives.
Sadly this excitement did not last long as the space shuttle broke apart 73 seconds into the flight, resulting in the immediate death of all seven crew members.
Ebola Took Even the Nurse
During the Ebola outbreak of 1976, nurse Mayinga N’Seka was determined to do her absolute best to treat patients to her best ability and try to save as many lives as possible. As Ebola is incredibly contagious and very dangerous, it was quite obvious that it would only be a matter of time before she contracted the disease herself. As can be seen in this picture, she eventually did catch Ebola and was not able to survive it.
She dedicated her life to helping and healing other people and unfortunately, one of the diseases overtook her and took her from this world at a much too young age.
Like a Scene From a Horror Action Movie
It's hard to believe that this photo is actually real. It looks like something out of a horror film or some crazy action movie. It seems too intense and shocking to be true. Alas, this is a real photo, captured by a dash camera that caught the exact moment Transasia’s Flight 235 crashed into the Keelung River in Taiwan. Only 15 out of the 28 people aboard survived this terrible crash.
The car on the road looks like it was also affected by the airplane's crash. It looks like it is about to tip over!
A Touristic Photo Right Before an Explosian
This father and son look pretty happy-go-lucky in this touristic photo of themselves in Northern Ireland. They are posing sweetly in front of a car on a busy street. Little did they know that the car they chose to take a picture with was actually one that was loaded with a bomb. Just a few minutes later the Omagh Bombing took place killing 29 people and injuring about 220 others.
The father and child somehow both survived this tragic event, but the photographer was not so lucky and was one of the 29 who were killed on this sad day.
An Amateur Photographer Captured a Suicide
A young man named Keith Sapsford decided to hide in the wheel of a plane that was flying from Sydney, Australia to Japan, when he was 14 years old. Once the plane took off into the air, he chose to end his life by jumping to his death. A young photographer in Sydney happened to be trying out his new camera at exactly that moment and was hoping to capture a beautiful picture of an airplane.
He must have been very heartbreaking to discover that one of his first photos was of someone jumping out of a plane to end their life.
This Teacher Did His Best to Save the Students
School cameras are installed to see many things, but no one ever hoped or thought that they would be witnesses to the last moments of some students and teachers after two young people went into a shooting frenzy inside Columbine High School. Teacher William "Dave" Sanders did his best to guide over 100 students to safety and out of the cafeteria when he realized that there were two savage murderers on the loose.
Sadly, Dave Sanders did not survive and the shooters gunned him to death with two shots to the chest. He did his best to save as many people as possible.
It Was Supposed to Be a Nice Flight to Uruguay
The 45 people on board this flight to Uruguay probably didn't think much of their plane back in 1972, when this photo was taken. Sadly, their plane ended up crashing into the Andes, killing 18 people. The survivors suffered a fate that was almost worse. Stranded and with no hope of rescue, they were forced to turn to cannibalizing the dead in order to stay alive.
It took rescue forces a whopping 72 days to arrive to save the remaining survivors of this tragic event.
Their Last Photo Together
These mother and daughter were on board a flight to their dream vacation Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014 and they couldn't have been any happier (as can be seen by the picture). They were probably thrilled to be heading towards their exciting destination. But they couldn't have expected what would come in just a short time. Russian forces shot down the plane over Ukraine killing everyone on board.
There were 283 passengers on board and 15 crew members. All of them were killed in this attack, and not even one of them survived this horrible act.
The Last Selfie at Bataclan Theatre
Gilles Leclerc and Marianne Labanane were very excited to attend the concert of rock group Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. As they were waiting for them to perform, they took this selfie together smirking happily with their drinks. Little did they know that this would end up being the last photo that they would take together. Four gunmen soon stormed the building and started shooting. Gilles was killed on the spot.
Marianne survived the attack due to the fast movements of her boyfriend, who protected her by throwing her to the ground and essentially taking the bullet in her place.
An Attempt to Raise Awareness Gone Wrong
This is perhaps the exact definition of someone having the best of intentions and yet somehow failing them. Robert Overcracker was a professional stuntman who decided to raise awareness for homelessness in 1995. He chose to drive a jet ski over Niagra Falls and parachute to safety. However, things didn't go according to plan as his parachute failed to deploy in time and he plunged to his death in the dangerous waters below.
This photo was taken just seconds before that dreadful moment when the parachute malfunctioned. You can only imagine the horror and despair in Robert's heart.
The Deepest Free Dive
Free diving is definitely one of the riskiest of hobbies. Nicholas Mevoli seemed to enjoy the risk as free diving was one of his favorite activities. One day he went out diving and was attempting a 236-foot deep dive (in which he succeeded). However, it did not go as smoothly as he hoped, and things quickly went south. Once he emerged from the water, he gave the OK sign, tried to speak, and then just passed out.
Nicholas never regained consciousness and actually died later that day from Pulmonary Edema. You can almost see the moment that he realized something was wrong and that he was not actually ok.
Harambe's Last Photo
Harambe was a gorilla that lived in the Cincinnati Zoo and was relaxing in his cage when a young three-year-old boy climbed into his enclosure. Maybe as a matter of instinct or curiosity, Harambe grabbed the child and started to drag him through the enclosure as everyone watched. In a panic and concern for the child's safety, a zookeeper shot Harambe, killing him instantly. The entire thing was videotaped and was shown to the entire world.
This event spread huge controversy all around the world over animal rights and the need for better standards of animal care.
They Thought It Was a Friendly Bear
Camping always comes with many possible dangers in the form of wild animals, unpredictable weather, and so much more. You never know what you might encounter in the wild. A man named West Milford was camping and hiking in the woods when he saw the black bear pictured here in the distance. He took a quick picture of the animal, probably not thinking much of it as it was still in the distance.
This would be the last photo that West would take as just moments later the bear attacked and killed him. Always remember to be careful in the woods and don't spend time photographing dangerous animals.
It Was Supposed to Be an Innocent Family Photo
Niagra Falls is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole world. People come from all around to see the majestic waterfalls and take photos of the natural wonder. This family had no idea what they were capturing in the background of their cute family photo. They would never have thought that it would be also the last photo taken of someone before they jumped to their death.
Ayano Tokumasu (in the red outfit) chose to end her life by throwing herself over the edge of the railing. She was a twenty-year-old student and this is the last photo ever taken of her.
A Moment of Happiness Before WW1
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia were out for a nice ride through the city in 1914. They were completely unsuspecting and unaware of what was to come, as can be seen by their smiles. Just one hour later the unfathomable happened. A Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip succeeded in shooting the Archduke and killing him immediately. This tragic event was the trigger (pun intended) for World War 1.
Image how different history would be if the gunman was not able to shoot and murder the Archduke. An entire world war could have been prevented and thousands of lives could have been saved.
The Flaming Airplane
Plane crashes are one of the biggest fears many people all around the world share. Many people are so scared of airplane rides they refuse to ever board a plane, and well, you can't really blame them. This incredible and tragic photo was captured of Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182 as it plummeted to the ground. It somehow crashed into another airplane in the air, a small, private Cessna 172. This surreal photo was taken seconds before it hit the ground.
Imagine being the photographer, taking pictures of the sky and clouds when all of a sudden you see a comet-like plane start falling through the sky.
The Last Photograph Was Recovered
Here you have yet another photograph that was taken on an airplane, that would prove to be the last. This picture was recovered from the debris of Japan Airlines Flight 123 after it crashed. There were 520 passengers and crew members on board this plane and almost none of them survived the crash. There were only four people, all of them crew members, who managed to survive the terrible event.
After seeing photos like this, it's understandable why people are scared of flying. It's enough to scare even the most frequent of fliers.
He Went Into the Wild and Never Returned
Christopher McCandless is oftentimes better known as the man who went "into the wild". He can be seen here posing happily for the camera, waving to whoever might be viewing this later on. He does not seem the least concerned that his attempt to go live on his own in the Alaskan wilderness will end badly. Sadly, in 1992, Christopher's body was found by moose hunters. Starvation was ruled as the cause of death.
Christopher lived in an abandoned bus for over 100 days before passing from what is thought to be starvation. The actual cause of his death, however, is still widely debated.
It Was His Last Parkour Trick
Although a very fun pass-time, Parkour is also quite risky. Professional parkour enthusiasts can attempt to perform some pretty insane tricks and go to extreme lengths to accomplish them. In this photo, Parkourist Pavel Kashin was trying to perform a pretty intense trick that involved him completing a backflip while standing on the ledge of a very, very tall wall. Any onlookers could see that this would not end well.
Although this looks like a really awesome picture, it was not worth it in the end. Pavel did not survive the landing, lost his balance, and fell to the ground below.
The Last Time He Filled the Gas
James Dean was known to love his Porsche 550 Spyder. He loved it so much that he would often take pictures with it and it almost became like a family member or a loved one to him. Here he can be seen filling up the gas tank as he is about to take it for a little spin. Little did he know that this would be the last spin he would take with the car.
He crashed the Porsche shortly after (a crash that resulted in his death). They even say that the car was passed along to many others who suffered similar fates...making everyone think that the car was cursed.
The Last Photo of the Titanic
Just about everyone knows the tragic story of the Titanic, the "unsinkable" ship that hit an iceberg and sunk in the middle of the icy ocean, killing over 1,500 passengers. Most people are not as familiar with this "last" photo taken of the infamous ship. It looks beautiful and majestic and who would have thought that shortly after it would be one of the most tragic events, affecting over 2,000 people.
This little fisherman's boat also probably thought that the Titanic was unsinkable just by looking at it. It would be hard to believe that such a massive boat could sink and destroy the lives of so many people who were on board.
Moments Before Diana's Crash
Although this photo was probably taken by one of the many paparazzi crowders that eventually contributed to Princess Diana's unfortunate death, they did capture the moment before the horrible accident. You can see the look of horror on the face of her bodyguard as he realized what is happening. Diana has her head turned to the back to avoid even more photos, but it still did not stop the masses.
Everyone is familiar with this terribly tragic story and you can only hope that the world will learn from the mistakes that lead to unnecessary deaths on that day.
Pre Mount Everest Climb
Mount Everest is well known for being the tallest mountain in the world and also one of the toughest climbs. George Mallory was a mountaineer who became one of the first people to attempt the crazy ascent up the mountain in 1924. As you can see he and his party came very well prepared, ready for the dangerous and daunting climb ahead. All of their preparations could not help them, however, as they soon disappeared somewhere on the mountain.
No one knows if they ever reached the top of the mountain or not, but you can only hope that they at least made it to their goal and reached the peak before passing away.
The Murderous Fireworks
It was an ordinary night at a Rhode Island station nightclub. The band Great White was playing for a large crowd of excited party-goers. No one thought there was anything out of the ordinary going on. However, something was very much amiss and it can even be seen in this photo. Do you see the fireworks on display in the background? They would eventually cause a widespread fire in the venue.
Over 100 people were killed in this tragic event. What is even sadder is that it was all caused by some simple fireworks...an unnecessary addition to the performance.
He Was Falsely Accused
Between 1981 and 1987 R. Budd Dwyer was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania. In 1987 he was accused of bribery and withholding taxes. His trial was televised for the entire country to see and it seemed that he couldn't stand the pressure and all the negative attention he was receiving. He brought a gun with him to trial and shot himself to death in front of the entire country.
The saddest part of this entire story is that R. Budd Dwyer was eventually found innocent at the end of his trial. He can be seen with the gun in hand during his trial, recklessly waving it around.
A Boat Crash in the Niagra
Joseph Avery was out with his friends for a nice boat ride in the Niagra River when his boat crashed. The other two men on the boat were instantly killed but Avery somehow survived the initial crash. He swam over to a rock and held onto it for over 18 hours waiting for a rescue boat to arrive. Once the rescue boat finally came to save him, he climbed in eagerly causing the boat to capsize.
Unfortunately, Avery did not survive the second boat disaster of the day and despite his efforts, he could not hang on any longer...and to think that part of the event was captured on camera.
Last Photo Before the Tsunami
Everything looks so calm and peaceful and all the people look so happy. This girl in the center of the photo seems to be thoroughly enjoying her vacation by the beach. None of these people, especially 31-year-old tourist Deborah Garlick expected what would happen next. The horrible tsunami soon took over the coast of southeast Asia killing over 200,000 people and causing innumerable damage to all those in the area.
Deborah sadly did not survive the tsunami but her family was able to find her belongings in the aftermath and that is where they discovered her last photo.
The Last Selfie
Everyone loves a good selfie and people have been known to go to some extreme lengths to get the perfect photo. Those attempts do not always end so well as can be exemplified by 18-year-old Xenia Ignatyeva. She was insistent on getting an extreme selfie at the top of 30-foot-high bridge. She ended up losing her balance and falling desperately to the ground to her immediate death.
The fall isn't what killed her in the end, however. She was killed by electrocution when she grabbed onto electrical wires on her way down, in a desperate final attempt to save her life. She probably thought that the cords would help save her, but they did the exact opposite.
Struck by Lightning
Sean and Michael, two brothers who were out camping thought that this would be a great time to take a brotherly picture together in Sequoia National Park in California. Although the picture would have been a pretty ordinary one under any other circumstances, they happened to be struck by lightning right as the picture was being taken. They continued smiling as they were hit by lightning and even captured the moment their hair struck out into the air in all different directions.
Both of the brothers survived this incident and managed to escape essentially unharmed. They were pretty lucky and even got an epic picture out of the incident.
Biggie Smalls' Last Photo
Biggie Smalls, also known as The Notorious B.I.G. or sometimes as Christopher Wallace was a very well-known rapper. This is the last photograph that was taken of him while he was alive. After leaving this Los Angelas party he was being driven home (even with a security guard). Even his security guard however could not save him from his attacker who was set on blood and shot Biggie Smalls in the back four times.
Christopher Wallace was killed in 1997 by this nameless murderer who has yet to be identified. Biggie Smalls tried to get the extra security that he needed, but it appears that it just was not enough.
He Chose No Safety Net
Karl Wallenda was a circus legend for many, many years. He was known as one of the world's best acrobats and he lived for the show. He would perform constantly for countless crowds all around the world, oftentimes adding in the extra suspense factor of performing without a safety net. He was 73 years old when he performed his last show after falling to his death by not having a safety net below.
This time that he walked on the wire he lost his balance and fell 121 feet to the ground. At least he died doing what he truly loved.
A Slip Into the Tiger's Cage
Whether it was a slip or an accidental jump, no one will ever know for sure, but whichever it was, it left this 20-year-old man named Maksood in a very compromising situation. He stood face to face with a white tiger in the New Delhi zoo in India. For 15 minutes, they looked at each other, perhaps both of them in shock, deciding what to do and what their next steps would be.
Onlookers became nervous and started throwing rocks at the tiger, hoping to distract him, but it only made matters worse. The tiger attacked Maksood shortly after, killing him.
The Last Car Photo
What should have been a lovely photo taken while driving actually turned out to be the last photo ever taken of Lisa ‘LeftEye’ Lopes who was a member of the popular girl-band TLC. She was only 30 years old when she lost control of her car in the face of an approaching truck. She tried to swerve to escape the oncoming assault but was unsuccessful and unfortunately lost her life that day.
She had had a very successful career until that point and had even won four grammy awards by that young age. It was a shame to see such a bright star taken away at such a young age.
Working as a Volcanologist
Although having a job as a volcanologist could send like lots and lots of fun, it certainly comes with an endless list of risks. Perhaps the largest (and most obvious) risk is that one of the volcanoes that you are studying could erupt at any given moment. That is exactly what happened to David Johnson when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980. He was the first one to sound the alarm, but sadly did not make it out alive.
He saved many lives by giving an early warning of the eruption, but there were still 57 people who were killed as a result of the volcanic eruption.
Her Last Hawaiian Selfie
Just about anyone can agree that this would be a pretty tempting place to take a photo. The views are incredible and who wouldn't want a nice photo to remember that? Sadly, this young woman would soon lose her footing (maybe because it was after a long hike) and tumble down into the Lumahai River on the island of Kauai. Lifeguards managed to spot her in the water and help rescue her before the waters swept her away too much.
Unfortunately, despite the lifeguards' best efforts, it seemed that the fall and the river were just too much for her and she did not survive long in the hospital.
They Disappeared on Their Hike
These two young ladies look extremely happy on their hiking trip together as they take selfies with the beautiful nature in the background. Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers were Dutch tourists enjoying a trip to Panama. They were planning on doing this hike with a tour guide, however, their plans changed and they left a day earlier than expected, with no tour guide to lead the way. They disappeared into the woods shortly after and were never able to be found again (alive at least).
Eventually, their bones were discovered in the forest along with their belongings. Upon searching it was found that they attempted to call emergency services multiple times but were not successful. There were also some dark and disturbing images from the night recovered from their cameras.