26 Final Photos Taken Seconds Before Tragedy Struck

There are moments in time when you know something terrible is about to happen but you can’t look away and there are moments in history that are seared into our minds but we never got to see what was happening the seconds before the tragedy. Many of these moments are great tragedies that changed the world with their far-reaching impacts with the aftermath usually being the first thing the media seizes upon.


Here we have several photographs taken just before disaster struck to illustrate just how shocking, unexpected and tragic these moments can be.

Flesh Wounds

Seth Mead had encountered sharks in the water before when surfing and had hastily exited the water with no problem but when lounging on his board one day a shark struck and sunk its teeth into his leg.

Unlike most attacks, though, it didn’t shake Seth about and was probably just curious as to what he was but with no hands to feel sharks tend to use their mouths to discover new things which can be…painful. Fortunately, it let go and Seth escaped with only flesh wounds.

Tragic Champion

Elio Canestri was a 13-year-old surfing champion when he went to the French holiday island of Reunion. A skilled surfer, Elio was used to the strong waves but did not expect a shark attack and was bitten in the stomach and had his limbs torn off in a shark attack as he surfed in an area off limits to people because of its known dangers.

So vicious was the attack that several witnesses, including other children, had to be treated for trauma.

Last Picture of the President

President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was a popular, if divisive, figure in American politics and had ascended to the highest office in the land off the back of his policies of reform and his endearing charm. However, on November 22, 1963, the President and his wife sat in an open-top car driving through Dallas, Texas as part of a motorcade, where the President was shot at by Lee Harvey Oswald, from a school book depository window.


Image:Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News via Foter.com / Public domain

Killed by the bullet, this is the last known image of JFK alive and it was the last time a president of the United States would ride in an open top car.

Dragged Away

Having an argument whilst on safari is probably not the best thing to do, but when this woman did just that, she got out of her car and went around to the driver’s side door to remonstrate with her partner. Unfortunately, she was in the part of the park where the tigers were, and they were not too keen on her being in their territory.


The tigers of Badaling Wildlife Park in China, appeared behind the woman, pouncing and dragging her off. Two other passengers then get out and try to aid her, but one is mauled to their death as the first woman was saved but had to be immediately hospitalized.


Anyone who has seen the tragic documentary Black Fish will know the horrifying story of Tilikum, a killer whale kept in captivity who then started to turn on her trainers and a quick cover up ensued with SeaWorld desperate to minimize the damage their brand had suffered.

Jumping out of the water and grabbing Dawn Brancheau by the ponytail in February of 2010, the whale dragged her underwater and would not let her go. Shockingly, the attack took place in front of a crowd of spectators as they awaited a demonstration between Brancheau and the killer whale. Tilikum was involved in the death of two other trainers also, the photo shows Tilikum dragging another trainer repeatedly down by their ankle but they managed to escape.

Roy Horn

Siegfried and Roy were a famed Las Vegas magic act that used live and dangerous animals as part of their performance until one day, during the middle of the act, Roy Horn found himself being mauled by one of the white tigers they used on stage and was left partially paralyzed by the attack.

Horn was saved, and he protested the mooted destruction of the animal saying it was ill and not its fault. He managed to save the tiger, but the magic act was discontinued.


Much controversy surrounds the MH17 plane crash still as it plummeted 33,000 feet over Ukraine, crashing in a part of the country that is at war and killing all on board. It was shot down by a rocket but the debate rages still as to who fired the shot and to what end they wanted to do so. Was it a stray missile or a misidentification of the plane? Which side fired the weapon and was it government- backed?


All these answers remain unclear, but this photograph shows a mother and daughter who were on the flight heading towards a vacation in Europe with the shot believed to be taken by the father. They would never reach their destination with crash investigators believing that those onboard were alive for the 3/4 minute drop into the ground.

The Assassination of John Lennon

Former Beatle, lauded solo musician and songwriter, and noted peace campaigner John Lennon is a household name but on December the 8th 1980, his life was cut short at the age of 40 as he returned to his New York apartment where he was shot four times in the back by a crazed ‘fan’ in what became one of the most famous assassinations of all time.

Image: lacoctelera.com

The killer was Mark David Chapman who had, earlier that day, stood outside Lennon’s apartment and asked him to sign a copy  Double Fantasy for him, an album by John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, released earlier that year. This is the photo of Lennon signing the album for his killer earlier on that fateful day.

Budd Dwyer’s Last Broadcast

Rober Budd Dwyer was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania from 1981 until 1987 and during that period, the state he represented discovered its state workers had overpaid federal taxes due to errors in state withholding. Many accounting firms competed for a multimillion-dollar contract to determine the compensation to each employee.


In 1986, Dwyer was convicted of taking a bribe from the firm that eventually won the contract and was due to be sentenced for this despite maintaining his innocence throughout the trial. The day before his sentencing, Dwyer called a press conference where he then produced a revolver and took his own life in front of the TV camera’s that would broadcast his death across the state. This photo shows him telling others to stand back moments before he fired on himself.

Columbine Warning

Much has been said of the infamous school massacre that took place in Columbine, Colorado in 1999 but the deadliest high school shooting in US history prompted debate over gun control, goth culture and other far reaching and wide ranging subjects after the horrific events that took place. However, they could have been far worse had it not been for teacher David Sanders.


Rushing to the packed cafeteria where many students were gathered, he warned that two gunmen were on the loose, allowing for may to make an escape as he fled into the hallway to find others to warn only to be gunned down himself, this photograph shows him leaving the cafeteria after issuing his warning.

A Costly Slip

While visiting a zoo in New Delhi, India, one man wanted to see the rare white tiger close up and was climbing on the enclosure to get a better view. He was repeatedly warned to get down as both the fall and the animal could be potentially disastrous. Undeterred, the man held his position until losing balance and falling into the tiger cage.

Instantly the white tiger prowled up to the man and kept him cornered for almost 15 minutes as other visitors and zookeepers tried to distract the animal. Unfortunately, it eventually decided to pounce and dragged the man, by the neck, back to its den before killing him.

A Stupid Thing To Do

One might expect trouble if you were to jump into a polar bear enclosure but that is exactly what a woman did in a German zoo as she started to swim toward the bears, apparently elated but, as soon as she was within striking distance, she was bitten on the arms and legs and mauled by the bear.

Image: Wenn/dailymail.co.uk

Keepers tried to distract the polar bear as she then hurled herself to the edge of the enclosure and was hauled out before being rushed to hospital.

A Whole Team Lost

With the entire USA figure skating team on board, heading to the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague, the Boeing 707 carrying them crashed whilst traveling from New York to Belgium in 1961 killing a total of 73 people and losing an entire generation of talented figure skaters for the nation.


Here the team poses for a group photograph before boarding the flight that they would never return from.

The First Ebola Outbreak

Ebola may well be back in the headlines in recent weeks but it was first identified in 1976 with two o simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan and the other in Yambuku, Congo a village near the Ebola River from which the disease takes its name. Killing 280 people then, this photo shows a nurse named Mayinga N’Seka who had been fighting the virus days before it took her life.


Internal and external bleeding, loss of fluids and vomiting all occur with Ebola and, although prevention and cures are much more readily available, outbreaks of the virus do still happen.

Oklahoma City Bombings

In 1995, domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh andTerry Nichols carried out a bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City that killed 168 people. Militiamen who had a hatred for federal government, they used a rental truck to carry the explosives to their destination and this surveillance footage captured the vehicle moments before the bombs went off.


The deadliest domestic terrorist incident to occur in the United States, it was the deadliest terrorist attack in the US until 9/11.

The Hindenburg Crash

The event that single-handedly ended the reign of the passenger blimps, the Hindenburg crash was a horrendous air disaster at the time as it flew from Germany to New Jersey, USA as it caught fire and crashed killing 36 people. Airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was trying to dock with a mast when it caught flame and plummeted toward the ground.

Image:U.S. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Aeronautics. Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA). via Foter.com / Public Domain Mark 1.0

It was subsequent newsreel footage showing the disaster that shattered public confidence in this form of air travel and brought its era to an abrupt end. Here, the craft is shown before it embarks on its flight.

Ayrton Senna

One of the most gifted Formula One racers of all time, Ayrton Senna was noted for his strong rivalries and daring moves on the track but in 1994, his life was cut short whilst leading the Monaco Grand Prix as his car slammed into a cement separating barrier that led to serious injuries of which he would later die of.


This photo shows Senna in the cockpit of his car before the race had begun as he surveyed the starting grid.

The death of Deborah Garlick

On December 26, 2004, a destructive tsunami crashed into the coastlines of nations across Southeast Asia, devastating everything in its way and taking the lives of 230,000 people.

It was a natural disaster on a scale never seen before, with colossal, 98-foot waves spawning one of the biggest earthquakes in recorded history. One of those taken was 31-year-old Deborah Garlick, who had been enjoying a romantic Christmas holiday with her boyfriend on Thailand’s exotic Phi Phi Islands.

YouTube/ NDX News

Parents Margaret and Bryson spoke to a British t.v. channel 10 years on from the incident. Unsurprisingly, the Garlicks confessed that they are yet to recover from their daughter’s sudden death, and whenever the festive season comes around, it can be particularly draining, but the Garlick’s were handed a beautiful package 5 months after her death.

The package contained a roll of film belonging to their daughter that was handed to a local Thai police station. After getting the photos developed, Deborah’s mother came across a series of holiday snaps, including the one above of Deborah posing for a photo amidst the stunning backdrop of Maya Bay, a hotspot famed for being the shooting location of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach.

Chillingly, the is made more poignant due to it being found on the last roll of film, likely indicating that it was taken just moments before her life was taken by a tsunami that, even to this day, leaves scientists at a loss for words.

Air Balloon Disaster 

Most people dream of taking a scenic ride on a hot air balloon on a lovely summer’s afternoon, but one such ride on January 7th, 2012 in New Zealand didn’t go as planned. Inadvertently, the balloon came in contact with a series of high voltage power lines, killing all 11 people on board.

YouTube/ The Richest

Two passengers died after making the split decision to jump from the balloon, while the other 9 stayed rooted, and perished from the impact of the crash. The toxicology report later found that the pilot had tested positive for THC.

Paul Walker’s Crash

Arguably the face of the Fast And Furious Franchise, Walker, 40, was last pictured in his Porsche with friend Roger Roads before the car fatally collided with a pole and tree just minutes later.

YouTube/ Mov Pac

It was thought the car was going over 94mph- more than twice the legal speed limit. However, a successful lawsuit, filed by Paul’s daughter Meadow Walker disputed those claims, and instead, it was ruled that the model lacked “the safety features” necessary for a car of its speed, resulting in an undisclosed payout.

Amy Winehouse’s Last Public Appearance

Troubled singer Amy Winehouse was an accident waiting to happen to many who observed her career as the 27-year-old just couldn’t curb her drug addictions, which tragically led to her death in her London home after consuming over five times the legal drink-drive limit.

YouTube/ TheTalko

Here, the late star looked in better health, looking less gaunt than past photos, but by that sage in her life, it was common knowledge that the Grammy-winner was fighting a losing battle with drink and drugs.

The Final-Known Photo Of The Titanic Afloat

One of history’s greatest tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic came to signify the drawing to a close of the British empire and shocked the world at the time. Now, over 100 years later the incident still enthralls many.

YouTube/ TheTalko

Just take this photo as an example. Thought to be the final one taken before the ship collided with a fatal iceberg four days later, the photo serves as a chilling reminder of a fatality which took 1,503 lives.

Ali Khan Samsudin 

What does the role of ‘snake charmer’ do exactly? It’s a title we often hear about every now and then but never quite know was it entails because how an earth are you actually supposed to get a venomous snake to like you?

Well, Ali Khan Samsudin probably thought he had the answer as he regularly performed a whole host of stunts with cobras and made a good living doing so. In one stunt, he even locked himself in a room with 400 cobras for 40 days straight. Unfortunately, one cobra thought he was a bit of a douche and decided to fatally bite Samsudin in 2006. Lesson learned: Quit while you’re ahead.

The Murder Of Sharon Tate

Married to the film director Roman Polanski and pregnant with his child, everything seemed to be going just great for the actress Sharon Tate. She was living the dream and appeared destined to continue living it for years to come until Charles Manson directed his “family” of followers to kill her.

The late serial killer was actually indirectly responsible for the murders of seven people, which included the eight-month pregnant actress Sharon Tate. While not taking part in the killings, Manson was held accountable for instructing the murders, which were carried out by Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkle and Leslie Van Houten.

YouTube/ SC Videos

Manson’s motive was to start a race war between African Americans and white people by murdering residents in the wealthy, predominately white suburbs of L.A. and then blaming the killings on members of the black community.

The 83-year-old eventually served over 40 years before he succumbed to his death in a hospital in Bakersfield, California last year, with this elegant photo of the beautiful actress thought to be the last captured image of the star alive before Manson’s cult killed her.

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