17 survivors out of 65 people onboard. Was an Embassy Marine at the time. Actually, was the youngest Embassy Marine in the world at the time. I was 17 years old when I first arrived at the Embassy to start my tour of duty. http://i.imgur.com/Fh6lnUB.jpghttp://i.imgur.com/MrjGos9.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/PLvAm38.jpg http://i.imgur.com/ABXErev.jpg

Comments: 773 • Responses: 72  • Date: 

Deathbybunnies215 karma

Did you have any idea that Denzel Washington was piloting your plane and did you think he was drunk?

HighlanderTCBO1233 karma

Trust me, he would have done a better job...

TrentKama28 karma

Do you have some lingering resentment towards the flight crew?

HighlanderTCBO139 karma

Not now. In the beginning I did.

laser-show-15156 karma

Was it terrifying when you realized that the plane was going to crash?

HighlanderTCBO1291 karma

Had no clue we were crashing till I slammed into the seat in front of me, and then hit the right bulkhead. I had undid my seat belt about 30 seconds before the crash, which in my opinion saved my life (kept me from getting chewed up in the wreckage).

Vhett192 karma

The Master Chief never buckled up either...they based him off of you!

HighlanderTCBO1108 karma

LOL. I cried the first 5 minutes of the movie "Up"... ;) Was corrected on this. Sad part comes at 12 minutes.

moremovesthandisco81 karma

Fascinating. My dad was hit by an 18 wheeler that ran a red light, tearing the front clean off his vw transporter (1950's ish model). He never wore a seatbelt whenever we drove, and maintained that he and I would not be here now if he wore his seatbelt that day as he was thrown into the back of the van, not kept in place in the wreckage. I have no doubt seatbelts save more lives than not, however in the back of my mind there is always the thought of that freak accident where it would be a hindrance.

HighlanderTCBO1191 karma

All one needs to do is watch some of those vids on r/gore and r/wtf. The ones where people are thrown from their vehicles and get run over several times. Trust me, wear the damn seatbelt. Your old man was lucky that time.

HighlanderTCBO1133 karma

Think "outside the box" with your questions people. Half the "fun" began after the initial crash. Example, went from 165 pounds down to 108 pounds, why? What kind of beer did Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan sneak into my hospital room, and why did he choose that particular day to do it?

yoinkmasta10783 karma

Example, went from 165 pounds down to 108 pounds, why?

Did you get a Lt. Dan type injury?

HighlanderTCBO1251 karma

Sorry, a "Lt. Dan" injury? Loss of limbs? No, dumb as doctors left a sponge in me for 30 days. I was dying of infection in the hospital, and no one knew why. They were pumping me full of antibiotics every day. On day 30 my Orthopedic Surgeon was doing the daily dressing change on my "exploratory incision" (puss leakage), when he asked me to lie back. He then sniped the sutures and reached in with forceps, and pulled out a 12" sponge that they had left in me during surgery the night of the crash. Mind you this was done without any kind of anesthesia.

sbabster104 karma

I read an article today that said this happens 6000 times a year in the US... and that sponges are way worse than any sort of instrument as they will bind your organs and almost certainly get infected before the doctors know its there... and its totally preventable now as they have the technology to electronically tag them, but most hospitals dont. That sounds like an awful thing to have gone through...

HighlanderTCBO124 karma

Saw that same article!

malvoliosf14 karma

30 days? What did they think it was?

Could you sue?

HighlanderTCBO1106 karma

They had no idea what was going on. Back then there was no "lead thread" running through sponges, that would show up on X-ray. Sue? We're talking India here in 1973.

TalkingBackAgain7 karma

Mind you this was done without any kind of anesthesia

Meh, you're a marine. It takes more than a few stitches to throw you off your game.

HighlanderTCBO13 karma

LOL! Hurt like hell though. Screamed, then went into shock.

kojef9 karma

Tell the story about the beer, please.

HighlanderTCBO152 karma

I did tell earlier, but long story short. Ambassador Moynihan snuck me in a 6-pack of Budweiser, knowing full well no one would ever accuse an Ambassador of doing such a thing. Moynihan was a good man. One of the few I've met who's word was as good as anything written on a piece of paper. He was the kind of person who was never full of himself. Always remembered where he came from.

Drifty_Canadian132 karma

What was the sound like? and how tremendous was the force when the impact happend? Glad you're alright

HighlanderTCBO1182 karma

Great question! Still to this day, that is the one thing that'll unnerve me. The sound of metal "crunching". Rotation speed (landing speed) on a 737, to my understanding is about 190 miles per hour. We hit the ground (in a rock quarry no less) and continued on till the plane stopped/broke apart.

sassy1986 karma

Rotation speed is not the landing speed. Rotation speed (Vr) is the speed at which the aircraft "rotates" during the take off roll.

HighlanderTCBO192 karma

Duh! Good point, you're right.

baraves129 karma

Did it hurt.... when you fell from heaven?

HighlanderTCBO177 karma


operating_bastard112 karma

Here's a wikipedia on the crash in question, Indian Airlines Flight 440.

I'm guessing it must have been a very sudden and quick crash, with no advance warning, if you hit power lines. Good job on saving the kid also!

HighlanderTCBO1158 karma

OK, about the kid. That was a lot of "embellishment" by the news media. It's just that after 40 years, that's all the proof I had that I was in the crash. They don't hand out merit badges as proof for surviving a plane crash...

Dracomister772 karma

So what exactly did you do?

HighlanderTCBO142 karma

In regards to what?

Relaxolutionist94 karma

How long did the crash last? Did the pilot die? What was the cause of death for most of the people (fire, smoke inhalation, massive bodily trauma)? Do you ever talk to other survivors of the crash?

HighlanderTCBO1275 karma

Hmm, I'm going to guess it took about 20-30 seconds to come to a stop. Pilots lived (they brought the nose up at the last second). Almost all of the survivors were up front. I was the only one in the rear. Most died in the crash 4-7 at least in the ensuing fire. Watched two burn to death. Broken pelvis and right arm at my end. Barely kept myself from getting BBQ'd. Had 1st and 2nd degree burns. It was a game of keeping from going into shock, while trying to free one leg from the twisted metal. I really was down to my last breath (half the hair facing the fire was singed off), before I was able to free myself and roll down the wreckage. Nope, never have talked to any of the other survivors. The kid became an Air Traffic Controller years later. He lost his mother and two sisters in the crash.

doubleshao116 karma

That's terrifying...what was it like to watch people burn to death?

HighlanderTCBO1366 karma

It's not just the watching, it's also the sounds (screams are almost not human sounding). Also, the smell (yeah, it was that close), and the reaction of some. For example, there was this one guy, closer to the flames than I was, who was also trapped by debris. I was cheering him on to try and free himself, yelling at him in Hindi and English. About 15 seconds before the fire reached him, he just sort of "gave up". Maybe he was making peace with whatever God he worshipped. For me, that was the catalyst to ignore the pain and get the fuck off that wreckage. Fire is no way to depart this earth.

Philosopizer231 karma

About 15 seconds before the fire reached him, he just sort of "gave up".

My guess is, is that the hot air/smoke causing lungs and brain function to fail to give the appearance of giving up.

Source: firefighter

HighlanderTCBO116 karma

Good point. All that plastic burning, very toxic.

doubleshao79 karma

Oh man. That's gut-wrenching. Did you have any long term issues from seeing that happen?

HighlanderTCBO1124 karma

None! Remember, I was 18 years old at the time. Would it have affected me more if I would have been older? Who knows.

Creative-Overloaded66 karma

I think it would have affected you more at a younger age. But I'm glad you are quite well adjusted.

HighlanderTCBO140 karma

Thank you! I try not to take myself too seriously though.

Creative-Overloaded11 karma

I can tell from reading your responses. I think your whole attitude is what keeps you going.

HighlanderTCBO145 karma

Life's a gift. One shouldn't piss it away complaining about everything.

coleowns38 karma

A professor I had experienced a similar thing when there was an explosion on board the aircraft carrier he was on. He said the same thing, that he was young and he could shake it off.


HighlanderTCBO14 karma

See, there you go.

Nitrogenica18 karma

this is the most surreal, insane comment I've ever read, made more mental by how cool you are about it all. congratulations on being amazing.

HighlanderTCBO139 karma

It's a cool story, I'd want to hear it. Dated my wife's twin sister first... saving that one for another AMA. ;)

sbabster2 karma

and only 13K? cripes! ID sue again.

HighlanderTCBO110 karma

It didn't/doesn't work that way. I had my lawyers, both here and there.

shuttyjohnbutty87 karma

When was the last time you got on a plane?

HighlanderTCBO1235 karma

I love flying. Got my Private Pilots License when I was 21 years old. Just for shits and grins.

artsatisfied190 karma

Don't leave giggles out of this.

HighlanderTCBO149 karma


AceDecade56 karma

So you faced your traumatizing childhood fear as an adult, and became a master of that which scared you. You're like batman!

HighlanderTCBO144 karma

Still scared of spiders...

Dr-Google16 karma


HighlanderTCBO161 karma

See me around spiders... scream like a little girl.

Shadzta63 karma

Did you ever escape the island?

HighlanderTCBO151 karma

I am an Island...

cheese9300760 karma

I am currently reading this from a Boeing 737 and it isn't filling me with confidence.

HighlanderTCBO149 karma

Enjoy the flight! LOL

playerIII59 karma

Survived a plane crash.

was the youngest Embassy Marine in the world

Son, I think you may be a player character.

HighlanderTCBO125 karma

You could find a much better looking character.

n80r56 karma

what kind of compensation did you get from the airlines?

HighlanderTCBO1124 karma

$13,000! Something about the limits of the "Warsaw Pact", and no not that Warsaw Pact. Something related to crashing on a commercial flight in a foreign country and the monetary compensation that follows.

malvoliosf119 karma

It's the Warsaw Convention of 1929, not the Warsaw Pact of 1955. Much more benevolent!

HighlanderTCBO184 karma

Thank you for the correction!

trabedmorningshow47 karma

The crash was almost 40 years ago now - really sets the bar high for terrifying moments. Has anything that's happened to you since then even come close? One would think that after that, your response to pretty much anything else would be "Eh..."

HighlanderTCBO1100 karma

Actually, got in a head on collision in my old CJ5 Jeep. It was with a big old Dodge car. Hard enough to tear my engine from the mounts. Instinctively hit the quick release on the fire extinguisher behind me on the roll bar upon stopping. That ol fire thing...

FartyNapkins119 karma

Are you invincible?

HighlanderTCBO163 karma

Trust me, I bleed like everyone else.

ocush199538 karma

What sort of injuries did you sustain from this crash? How long was your recovery period? And Finally, I really want to hear about the Ambassador giving you beer, If you don't mind. Thanks!

HighlanderTCBO198 karma

Broken pelvis, broken right arm, internal bleeding, and 1st and 2nd degree burns. Messed up my bladder too (misformed is all). Recovery was about 6 months total, must due to the sponge being left inside me and the weight loss. First off, I was the Ambassador's wife's favorite Marine (she didn't much like the military, and I looked like a kid back then). I was the one chosen to go out on the town with them as a Bodyguard more often that not. Anyway, the Ambassador, on July 4th (before he's to give a speech to the Embassy personnel), walks into my room at the Hospital at the British High Commission with a picnic basket, looks down the hallway both ways, pulls out a 6-pack of Budweiser and tells me "You don't know where you got this from, right Corporal!". Mind you, I was still hooked up to an IV at this time, so those beers went right to my head. All the other Marines were waiting with the other staff for him to show up for his speech (they couldn't take the blame for the 6-pack). No one would dare accuse the Ambassador of slipping me the beer... my nurse ending up "beating" the shit out of me for that episode.

Vhett57 karma

"beating" seems....ambiguous.

PhenomeVon29 karma

she wanked his wanker.

HighlanderTCBO117 karma

No, she keep hitting me. Little 5 foot Nepalese woman. Tough as nails.

HighlanderTCBO120 karma


bosscar16 karma

due to the sponge being left inside me

What do you mean? Did they leave a surgical sponge after an operation?

HighlanderTCBO123 karma

Yep! Big ol 12 inch sponge.

ziggg7624 karma

So how did 12 inches feel inside you?

HighlanderTCBO13 karma

It wasn't pretty, that's for sure! ;)

happyjakk35 karma

How did the captain/stewards tell you something was wrong? Did they know something was wrong?

HighlanderTCBO161 karma

Nope! On final approach at night. Pilot "flared" the plane at the last second, which caused the back end to slam into the ground first. I was in the last seat in the rear next to one of the flight attendents.

k7z28 karma

Where was your seat located?

HighlanderTCBO146 karma

Very last seat in the rear. I was carrying classified information for the Embassy on one of the weekly courier runs to our Consulate in Madras, and back again. Just so happens on this flight there was a large box I had to watch go into the cargo hold and observe the door shut, before I could board the plane.

malvoliosf22 karma

How did they recover the classified pouch after the crash?

HighlanderTCBO139 karma

They automatically assume, in that kind of situation, that classified information is confiscated, even if it's a safe bet that it was burned with everything/everybody else.

malvoliosf17 karma

Did the wreck burn? How did you get out?

HighlanderTCBO146 karma

Plane was a complete loss. Everyone was buried in one mass grave. Due to the heat, not much left. Clawed my way off

malvoliosf24 karma

How'd it actually go? Did the fuselage break open? The paper said something about a little kid, what was with that?

HighlanderTCBO164 karma

Plane split right down the middle, with the electrical stuff sparking, people screaming, and the sound of metal crunching. Later, one of the wings, that somehow remained intact, exploded, which made for a few interesting moments (things go up and things come down). All I could do was cover my face and hope nothing hit me. The kid lost his Mom and two sisters in the fire. His father was in shock. When I saw the flames moving toward the fuel tank (wing) I told him to get his father and get off the wreckage (he was worried about my situation). As I mentioned earlier, he later became an Air Traffic Controller.

OleaC27 karma

Have you been back to India since?

HighlanderTCBO1100 karma

No, I would love to though. Kipling once wrote "To understand a foreign country, you must first smell it", or something to that effect. He must have been talking about India. I really miss those smells. America is so sterile in that regard.

OleaC41 karma

I don't think anyone would miss the smell of Calcutta.

Madras (now Chennai) still has an Enfield motorcycle factory. Well worth a visit, amongst many other things to do in India.

HighlanderTCBO1106 karma

Ah, for me the smell, the sounds, they were magic to someone who yearned for adventure. Besides, not much over a year before I got there, I was breaking and entering, smoking weed, had quit High School. Was basically going nowhere. The Marines, Embassy duty, they were my new lease on life. Found out that the dude who I did some of those things with, and who had followed me into the Marines (joined with me on the buddy system), was found frozen to death and homeless a month ago. Family didn't even want to claim the body. Sad...

Agrippa91121 karma

Fucking hell that's depressing. In a way you survived two near-disasters.

HighlanderTCBO120 karma

I guess it's what one makes of it. Use it as "learning moments", or seek therapy the rest of your life. It all boils down to choices in life, as far as how we deal with what's thrown at us.

njkrut15 karma

I've always loved that quote and it is so true. I travel all over for business for pleasure and every time I get off an airplane I notice new smells where ever I land. If I've been to a place before you could put me on a plane and not tell me where I was going, blindfold me and when I get off I can tell you where I am.

Maybe that is my superpower.

HighlanderTCBO15 karma

Sense of smell is a powerful thing. I know what you mean.

fomorian10 karma

I know what you mean. I live in Canada now, originally from Pakistan and the same word comes to mind: sterile. I really miss the smell of Pakistan. Everything just smells more. The worst smells are worse, but the best smells are better.

HighlanderTCBO18 karma

Exactly! You know what I mean. Sometimes I get that look of "are you fucking serious about the smells". :)

wow_great_name27 karma

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. What do these numbers mean?

HighlanderTCBO116 karma


moetorious27 karma

what where your thoughts the second you exit the plane? where you in complete shock?

HighlanderTCBO167 karma

After rolling down the wreckage, I was spent. Rescue was a long time coming, since we were in a roadless area. It took about an hour for them to reach us. I had clawed my way far enough (about 12-15 feet) where I was safe enough. Villagers had arrived first and were dragging the few of us left close to the wreckage, away from the fire.

cunttastic6 karma

Good guy villagers!

HighlanderTCBO17 karma

Yes they were.

thehouseofmenthol25 karma

How did you get out of the plane after it crashed?

HighlanderTCBO171 karma

It was a race between me and the fire. No plane to get out of. When we finally came to a stop, I was on my back, looking at the night sky. The fire eventually got to where I was, and I decided to risk going into shock by yanking my leg free from wreckage, pushing off with my good arm, and hoping that rolling down the wreckage would buy me a little more time... assuming that I didn't pass out from the pain. ;)

justplanedisturbed21 karma

Glad you made it out! My girlfriend lost her life in one, and I've always wondered (and dreamt of) how it would have been like inside and what goes on in the minds of the passengers immediately after the crash. Thanks for the insight!

HighlanderTCBO112 karma

I'm so very, very sorry...

rawcompserv21 karma

How did the Jet crash?

HighlanderTCBO150 karma

Pilot error at night on final approach to the runway. Crashed 6 kilometers short.

doomwizard20 karma

do you/did you ever have nightmares or any major psychological issues afterwards?

HighlanderTCBO163 karma

Nope, none whatsoever. Do have regrets though, that if my pelvis wasn't busted up at the time, I figure I could have saved at least 3 people, even with just my one arm in working order. Shame... people get crazy in that kind of situation. Like rats on a sinking ship.

malvoliosf18 karma

  • What kind of warning did you get, if any?
  • What was the impact like?
  • How did you get out of the plane?
  • How did they get you to the hospital?
  • You ever freak out about it now?
  • Do you ever talk to fellow survivors of that flight?

HighlanderTCBO125 karma

No warning Like hitting something at 190 miles an hour Clawed my way off Carried me off, till they could reach an ambulance Nope, except when I hear metal crunching No, I never have talked to any other survivors

garaging17 karma

Where are you now? Married? A hermit?

Did you gain any sort of higher understanding (not necessarily god-like) from this situation regarding what is important?

HighlanderTCBO165 karma

In Minnesota. Been with my better half 27 years now. Oh Hell yeah, as in "Life's meant to be lived" and screw what Society says is important. Also, for a short while, I was bitter towards my fellow man. I saw acts of cowardice that night (people stepping on other people trying to get off the wreckage), but as time went by, I realized that people react differently to different situations. It's easy to find the bad in the world, much harder to look for the good.

Silver_Star12 karma

What kind of pain were you in?

HighlanderTCBO126 karma

The "pass out from shock" kinda pain. Shit hurts hitting the ground like that! ;)

IHv2RtrnSumVdeotapes7 karma

have you experienced any kind of survivors guilt?

HighlanderTCBO15 karma

No, not really.

katlitter5 karma

Did you have any type of near death experience like, seeing the bright light or seeing your life flash before your eyes?

HighlanderTCBO115 karma

No. Just thought it was weird that I undid my seatbelt moments before the crash (truly believe this saved my life). The flight attendant next to me even called me on it, but I didn't fasten it. It was something I never did before or since.

mmmooorrrttt6 karma

Why did you undo your belt, and why do you believe it saved your life?

[Upon proof-reading, the questions could perhaps be interpreted as judgmental. They're not meant to be; they're just questions.]

HighlanderTCBO18 karma

Wouldn't care if it was judgmental. It takes a lot to rattle my cage. All those years of working security in Clubs I guess. Have no idea why I undid the seatbelt. I was like it wasn't even my hand doing it. I ended up bouncing around on top of the wreckage, instead of getting chewed up in it.

tennisplayer22915 karma

Did you happen to see people fighting to save those they cared about? Or how about abandoning them?

HighlanderTCBO110 karma

I believe the mother survived the initial crash, but died trying to get to her daughters. I was stepped on twice by individuals trying to get off the wreckage. Some insane moments that can make one go to the "Dark Side" if one lets it happen. Easy to get jaded by that.

rotub4 karma

How long did it take for you to REALLY "register" that you had survived a plane crash?

HighlanderTCBO18 karma

Probably the next morning when the Embassy Doctor visited me in the hospital and said "You know Corporal, if you hadn't been in the shape you were in, you wouldn't have survived the crash". It was one of those WTF moments.

ablanchard17-13 karma

you need proof that shows that the man in the picture is you.

I could say that I am the president and show a new article with the president in it. is that enough?

HighlanderTCBO111 karma

Like I said, they don't give out merit badges for surviving a plane crash. You go my name from the article. Try googling it and see what you find. Oh hell, I'll save you the trouble. Go to "NomadicIslandAdventures.com" look up "crew". Actually, listen to the music there. My friend did a great job. The site's a dream job of ours... one day.