Survivors: True Death-Defying Escapes

True hair-raising stories of people who survived floods, lightning strikes, avalanches and more, plus key survival tips for dangerous situations.


WINNER, Red Cedar Award (non-fiction), 2006
WINNER, Silver Birch Award (non-fiction), 2004
Selected, Our Choice Canadian Children’s Book Centre, 2004



The tanker car hurtled through the air, skidded across the groudn, then slammed into the house, spewing clouds of poisonous gas into the air and trapping the Wieland family inside.

Friday, January 18, 2002, started off normally enough. Most of Minot, North Dakota, slept, unaware of the train that rumbled down the Soo Line, the rail line that cut across the middle of town. Just past midnight the train derailed, buckling like a wounded snake, rail cars snapping their couplings, metal shooting everywhere, fire erupting in a thunderous blast. One rail car, a tanker filled with dangerous anhydrous ammonia, hurtled 7 or 8 metres into the air, hopped over a dike, sliced through a grove of trees, then skidded across a field like a run-away iron beast. It missed one house and another, then plowed into a third, carving a hole into its side. Flames sprayed the sky and a cloud of poisonous gas billowed over the town.

The night was normal no longer.

Seventeen-year-old Jake Wieland awoke with a start. Somewhere in the far reaches of his sleepy mind, he thought he had heard an explosion. The house was pitch black, darker than most nights, it seemed. A pungent odour wafted into Jake's room. His telephone started beeping, a clear sign that the power was out. From down the hall, he could hear footsteps and excited voices. His parents, Lee and Carmel, were up. Something was wrong.

"Get some clothes on. We have to leave," he heard his father call.

Jake stumbled into the living room. His parents had been thrown out of bed, their bedroom windows shattered, glass firing like bullets across the room. There had been an explosion for sure, but just where and why no one knew for certain....


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