For many of us, the thought of holding a Guinness World Record feels like a glorious, outlandish achievement. As per the Guinness World Records website, you need to be incredibly focused and motivated to win a record in your lifetime. The brand, of course, already has a plethora of world records that have been set by ambitious individuals across the world for years. And if you’re someone who’s more inclined to create a record of your own, you can do that too.
There are rules here, by the way. As a description on the brand’s site explains, "If you are suggesting a new record idea, we recommend that you spend some time searching our current records to see what may already have been achieved in your area of expertise." Also, it’s vital for your record to be rather different from what’s already out there.
Some records aren’t complicated at all, if you think about them. For example, consider DJ Sumirock, a Japanese DJ who is the world’s oldest professional DJ. She’s a restaurant owner who moonlights as a DJ by night. Impressive.
Unfortunately, some stories are laced with tragedy. A few extraordinary individuals haven’t been lucky while chasing a record and have even ended up losing their lives along the way. Here’s taking a look at some of the most tragic stories.
Haris Suleman was trying to beat a flying record
In July 2014, an ambitious 17-year-old named Haris Suleman and his father decided to try and achieve a lofty goal of flying across the world in exactly a month. As reported by TIME, if the duo had succeeded, they would’ve set a record for the fastest trip around the globe in a single-engine plane. More than setting a record, the young Suleman hoped to inspire others and educate them about underprivileged kids in Pakistan.
Towards the end of their trip, Suleman and his father met with a tragic accident somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. To be clear, the father and son had worked hard to be ready before their mission and practiced what to do in the event of a plane crash, going through survival techniques. Suleman was a talented child who was born in the United States and was fascinated by flying from an early age — he was 8 when he was introduced to flying.
The ultimate goal for their mission was to collect funds for a non-profit organization that provides children access to education in Pakistan (via the BBC). As per CNN, the trip was extensive and covered 15 countries. Sadly, the pair never got to fulfill their dream. Suleman’s sister remembered him after his passing and remarked, "He was doing something that he loved. He was doing something adventurous."
Doc Deep didn’t survive his scuba diving attempt
In 2015, an expert diver named Guy Garman, more popularly known as Doc Deep, died while trying to break a scuba diving record. According to Stuff, Garman was hoping to inspire others by going on the world’s deepest dive. What went wrong? Well, the diver didn’t show up at a support checkpoint as expected. He was chasing the record in St Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
He was a hobbyist diver who was a full-time ear, nose, and throat specialist. It is believed that he was in his late 50s when he passed away. On that fateful day, he didn’t resurface as expected 38 minutes into his dive. As per a statement published by Scubaboard, divers realized something was amiss when Garman didn’t arrive on time. The statement read, "He never arrived at that first stop. Divers stayed as long as possible and more deep support divers went in to help with a deep vigil hoping that something had just seriously delayed him."
Garman was considered to be fairly knowledgeable about the sport. As per Healthy Simulation, the diver had spent two long years preparing for his big dive. Unfortunately, that proved to be inadequate.
Diana Paris was attempting skydiving
A German athlete, 46-year old Diana Paris, died tragically in April 2014 when she took part in an ambitious skydiving attempt in Arizona that involved 222 skydivers. The group was trying to set a record for the maximum amount of skydivers attempting the challenge together, as per CNN. The mishap took place when her parachute ended up malfunctioning.
As per the group that Paris was a part of, World Team, her accident had nothing to do with the number of participants. And no one else had a similar accident. What’s also important to mention is the fact that Paris wasn’t an amateur and had already completed 1,500 jumps when she attempted her final one. The World Team released a statement in Paris’ honor that read, "Our dear friend cannot and will not be replaced. The group will continue to hold the slot open in the skydiver’s honor."
According to Reuters, the skydiving group was rather diverse and had participants from 28 countries. A spokesperson from SkyDive Arizona, the facility where the event was held, said that it wasn’t even possible for Paris to rely on her spare parachute. She said, "The malfunctioning parachute was released too low to allow the reserve parachute to fully open."
Janaka Basnayake wanted to be buried
A 24-year-old from Sri Lanka, Janaka Basnayake, passed away in 2012 while allegedly trying to set a record for the maximum amount of time spent buried alive. As reported by Pri, Basnayake had sought help from his close friends while attempting the world record. He was buried in a trench 10-feet deep in the morning at 9:30 a.m.
When he was finally retrieved at 4 p.m., witnesses realized that he wasn’t conscious. He was rushed to a hospital where it was revealed that the daredevil had died. As per the BBC, this wasn’t the first time that Basnayake had attempted something like this. He had survived two previous similar attempts that involved him being buried for long periods. Two and a half hours and six hours, to be precise.
The Sri Lankan government requested the public to not attempt similar feats, calling them "high risk events." Also, it wasn’t confirmed whether Basnayake’s attempt was official.
Lowell Bayles was trying to be as fast as possible
An air race pilot named Lowell R. Bayles died while attempting to set a record back in the 1930s. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the pilot was exceptionally talented and had won the 1931 Thompson Trophy, where his speed was estimated to be 236.239 miles per hour, as well as the Goodyear Trophy race where his speed was believed to be around 206 miles per hour.
The pilot was from Mason, Ill., and learned flying on the side while holding down his gig as an electrician. When he crashed, he was flying the Gee Bee Model Z, a plane that had been lucky for him until that point. The fatal crash took place when Bayles attempted to set a landplane speed record. At the time, he was going at 300 miles per hour. The pilot was 31 at the time of his death.
Javad Palizbanian was a biking marvel
Back in 2005, a talented stuntman named Javad Palizbanian died tragically while trying to break a world record. According to the Irish Examiner, Palizbanian was attempting to jump over a series of buses with his bike when he met with an accident. He died on the spot. In fact, a television broadcast was underway during the stunt, and the accident led to producers immediately stopping the footage. They said, "The crash scene was too disturbing to show publicly."
A short while before he died, the determined stuntman told his admirers, "I am going to break the world record and do something for my country to be proud of." As per the Los Angeles Times, there were 22 buses in all that Palizbanian was attempting to get through. The accident occurred at a sports stadium in Tehran, Iran, when his bike hit the 13th bus.
Juan Francisco Guillermo had a long-term plan
A cyclist from Chile, Juan Francisco Guillermo, had a rather ambitious goal in mind. According to The Guardian, the cyclist was planning to spend five years cycling around five continents in a bid to set a world record. In 2015, he was on a journey in Thailand when he met with the fateful accident. He was accompanied by his wife and their son who were on a separate bike. Guillermo was hit by a truck and died from his injuries. The truck’s driver was arrested by local police officers. A cop said, "It was an accident caused by the driver’s recklessness. The road was straight and the cyclist was in his own lane."
If Guillermo had succeeded, he would have cycled 155,350 miles throughout the duration of his journey. As per Cycling Weekly, Guillermo was very close to achieving his dream and had only nine months left to finish his journey. The spot where the accident occurred is a treacherous highway in the Nakhon Ratchasima province.
Nicholas Mevoli was an expert diver
In 2013, expert deep water diver Nicholas Mevoli was getting ready to set a world record. Mevoli was an experienced free diver, according to the New York Times. In November, he was working on a dangerous goal — he hoped to get to 72 meters without any breathing equipment, relying on a single breath to see him through.
The events that transpired after Mevoli tried to finish the challenge were disturbing. As per witnesses, Mevoli was believed to have faced trouble at 68 meters, or 223 feet. He started coming back up but changed his mind at some point and tried to head back in a bid to complete his record attempt. Mike Board, an expert diver, reflected on the incident and said that Mevoli was already attempting something that is really difficult to achieve. He said, "Diving to that depth with no fins, that’s a hard, physical dive. I was thinking, O.K., he’s going to have a hard time getting up."
While Mevoli did come back up, he wasn’t normal. While he seemed to communicate that he was alright to witnesses, he lost consciousness right after and started showing distressing symptoms. In just 15 minutes, the diver had died despite the fact that experts and medical professionals tried really hard to bring me back. As per an Independent piece, the thing about Mevoli was that he was self-aware and ready to do what it took to set a world record. He never slowed down.
Jessi Combs met a tragic end
Professional speed racer Jessi Combs, 39, looked like she was on her way to greatness in 2019 when she took on a land-speed record in August. As per the BBC, the determined racer was trying to beat a record in the Alvord Desert, Ore., and managed to achieve a speed of 522.783 miles per hour. She later was declared to have actually broken the record, as per the Guinness World Records committee. She was, by the way, the first person to have set the record in over 40 years. Unfortunately, she lost her life in the process.
Combs got seriously injured when her engine suffered a misfortune, more specifically described as a "a mechanical failure of the front wheel." When the mishap took place, her car was already going at more than 500 miles per hour. For her part, Combs had been extremely ambitious and optimistic before the accident. She wrote on Instagram, "It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fire… those who are willing, are those who achieve great things…people say I’m crazy. I say thank you."
Her partner, Terry Madden, stated that "no record could ever be worth her not being there." He added that he felt really proud of her achievement despite the fact that he now couldn’t even glance at her car without tearing up.
Misao Okawa beat death for a long time
Japanese wonder woman, Misao Okawa, passed away in 2015 after holding down an impressive record — as per Guinness World Records, she was the oldest living person and oldest living woman in the world. She was born on March 5, 1898, and had celebrated her 117th birthday with her loved ones around a month before she passed away. She was residing in Osaka and surrounded by her family at the time of her death. Guess what her recommendations were for living a long life? Lots of sushi and plenty of sleep.
The news of her death was heartbreaking for many. Erika Ogawa from Guinness World Records had said back then, "We are very sad to hear of her passing. I had the pleasure of meeting her back in February 2013 — she was a charming cheerful woman who made people laugh and joke." Despite having defended two titles in her lifetime, Okawa didn’t manage to become the oldest person to have ever lived, a title that was held by Jeanne Calment from France who lived for 122 years and 164 days. Believe it or not, according to Vice, when Okawa reflected on her life, she said that it felt short.
Jessica Dubroff wanted to fly around the U.S.
In 1996, 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff embarked on a serious mission to be the youngest pilot ever to attempt a journey across the U.S. According to The New York Times, Dubroff was using a single-engine plane and was with her father at the time of the crash. Both of them died on the spot. An eye-witness commented that they were taken aback when they noticed the plane. They said, "I was shocked to see an airplane taking off in these weather conditions — my wipers on high speed could barely keep up. The plane was struggling and dipping."
Before their journey, her father told the press, "She really does love to fly. This started off as a father-daughter adventure and it’s gotten wonderfully out of hand." Her mom still urged other parents to let their children explore flying if they expressed the desire to learn. Dubroff’s death led to many folks wondering whether she had been too young to attempt such a feat. What’s undeniable is the fact that the young pilot was talented and smart — she came up with the flight plans on her own.
Sailendra Nath Roy’s zipline attempt went terribly wrong
A stuntman from India, Sailendra Nath Roy was known for his unusual skills. According to Yahoo!News, Roy was known for using his ponytail to zipline and set records. He was 49-years-old when he tried to make his way across the Teesta River in West Bengal. Roy, however, didn’t anticipate a major hiccup — he got stuck halfway when his hair got entangled, and he couldn’t set himself free.
He had many supporters rooting for him on the scene who were in for a rude shock when they realized that Roy was struggling to move and had no way to escape his predicament. A police officer looked back at the incident and said, "Roy tried frantically to get hold of a second rope to reach the finishing point." His struggle lasted for 20 minutes. When he was rescued by eyewitnesses, he was unconscious, and there were no medical professionals present to revive him. He was then taken to a hospital. A local official remarked, "Preliminary investigations suggest that Roy suffered a heart attack caused by a nervous breakdown after remaining suspended for several minutes." He already held a Guinness World Record for completing 82.5 meters, or about 270 feet, on a zip wire with his hair in 2011, and it remained unclear whether this was an official attempt to set another record.