Five people cheated death when a jet carrying a Brazilian soccer team crashed in a mountainous part of Colombia — and where they were sitting could help explain why they survived. While passengers, many of them actually standing, screamed in panic aboard Flight 2933 as it plummeted 11,000 feet toward the ground, Erwin Tumiri braced for impact. “I put the bags in between my legs to form the fetal position that is recommended in accidents,” he told Fox Sports Argentina. Tumiri said he noticed that many of the 76 other people aboard weren’t using the lifesaving technique — either because they were unaware of its benefits or were too alarmed to stay still.
A project carried out by Popular Mechanics magazine nine years ago looked at all crashes since 1971 found that people in the rear seats of a plane had a 40 percent greater chance of surviving than passengers toward the front.
Passengers themselves can do a lot to improve their chances of survival simply by making smart choices and being informed. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
The presentation – by video or by flight attendants – explaining what to do in case the plane goes down offers key information like: How do I get out? How do I escape if I can't see? Where's my flotation device?
Sometimes, passengers have only seconds to react in an emergency. If aircraft crew members are commanding passengers to assume the brace position, it helps to know in advance what they're talking about. The safety talk and card will help you.
In a smoke-filled plane, some sources suggest you keep low to the floor as there's likely to be less smoke at floor level. Wrong. The chances are you'll simply be trampled, crushed or suffocated under luggage, falling bodies and the rush of other passengers. Keep your head down, mouth and nose covered but stay on two feet.
Plan your escape. Visualize how you – and perhaps children you're traveling with – are going to get out of the plane. During some emergencies, it may be impossible to see the nearest exit. Count the number of rows from your seat to exits in front and behind you. The chances are you might be trying to find your way to an exit in pitch dark and/or thick smoke.
Statistics show that most crashes occur in the minutes surrounding takeoffs and landings. So it stands to reason that passengers who want to increase their chances of survival should be especially aware of what's going on at that time.