What if you could capture the last moment before a tragedy? Would you want the whole world to see it? These photos reveal the last moments before a tragedy struck. Some of the photos are filled with naive joy about what’s about to befall them, while others seem to evoke a knowing sadness from those pictured.
37. Paul Walker getting into a car
This is the final picture of Paul Walker, taken shortly before his life ended, getting into the Porsche Carrera GT with his friend Roger Rodas. The two men passed away after the car crashed into a tree going 100 mph. Their bodies were burned beyond recognition.
36. Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 182
In 1978, a commercial airliner collided with a private airplane in mid-air over San Diego. 144 people lost their lives, making this the worst aircraft disaster in California history. The incident prompted massive changes in air traffic rules to ensure nothing similar would happen again.
35. Air France Flight 4590
This Concorde plane was headed from Paris to New York City. During takeoff, it ran over some debris that punctured a tire and blew its fuel tank. The plane crashed into a nearby hotel. All 109 people on board and four on the ground lost their lives.
34. Steve Jobs
This image shows Steve Jobs, the mastermind behind the massive Apple Corporation, just a few short days before he passed away due to pancreatic cancer.
33. 2012 Carterton hot air balloon crash
In 2012, a scenic hot air balloon ride from Carterton, New Zealand, crashed into high voltage power lines. All twelve people lost their lives. The pilot may have been under the influence at the time.
32. Reynaldo Dagsa accidentally photographed a gang member
Filippino politician Reynaldo Dagsa was taking a picture of his daughter, wife, and mother-in-law when he captured something else: a photograph of the gang member who was about to end his life. Dagsa passed away at the scene, but his three relatives were not harmed.
31. Swept away by Niagara Falls
In this photo, Japanese student Ayano Tokumasu is seen in the background, standing looking at Niagara Falls a moment before she straddled the railings, and took her own life by jumping into the falls.
30. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the balcony where he would be shot
Martin Luther King, Jr. is pictured here on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 3rd, 1968. He’s pictured with civil rights leaders Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, and Ralph Abernathy. The next day, he would be gunned down by James Earl Ray on this very balcony.
29. TransAsia Airways Flight 235
An engine flame-out caused a domestic flight in Taiwan to topple in midair, then crash into the Keelung River in front of hundreds of eyewitnesses. Forty-two of the 58 people on board lost their lives.
28. Joe Kelly on September 10th, 2001
This is the last picture ever taken of a man named Joe Kelly with his two sons at a Yankees game on September 10th, 2001. He passed away the next day in the September 11th attacks on the Twin Tower buildings, where he worked.
27. R.Budd Dwyer taking his own life on live TV
Robert “Budd” Dwyer was the Treasurer of Pennsylvania from 1981 to 1987 when he was accused of receiving a bribe in exchange for over-withholding taxes on every state employee’s income. So while his trial was being played on live television, he pulled a revolver out of a manila envelope, put it in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. Millions of people saw it.
26. Tina Watson’s last dive
Tina and David Watson were newlyweds on their honeymoon to Australia, going for a dive at the Great Barrier Reef. David told Tina he was certified in scuba diving, but he was lying. When currents got too much for Tina to handle, instead of attempting to rescue her, David swam back to the surface. The picture of Tina in the background, lying on her side, is the final picture other divers took while she was (maybe) still alive.
25. First Ebola virus outbreak
In 1976, the first widespread Ebola outbreak was reported. Mayinga N’Seka, a nurse, is pictured here looking at the camera. Just a few days later, she herself would pass away from the highly contagious virus.
24. 1961 U.S. figure skating team
In 1961, all 18 of the members of U.S. figure skating team, along with their coaches and family members, lost their lives in a plane crash on the way to Brussels. It was such a disaster for the sport that the year’s World Figure Skating Championships were canceled.
23. Dale Earnhardt’s last ride
Dale Earnhardt lost his life in a three-car collision during the Daytona 500 in 2001. This is one of the last images ever taken of him before he got into his legendary #3 black race car.
22. Patrick Swayze
This is the last known photo of Patrick Swayze taken before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on September 14, 2009.
21. Henry Worsey’s last selfie
British explorer Lt. Col. Henry Worsley lost his life in January 2016 while attempting to complete the first solo, unaided crossing of the Antarctic. He walked 913 miles in 69 days and was only 30 miles from his final destination when he radioed for help and was helicoptered to a nearby hospital. However, he didn’t make it–he went into organ failure caused by severe dehydration and exhaustion. This was his last selfie, taken in his tent.
20. Rangoon bombing
The Rangoon, Burma bombing of 1983 was an attempt on the life of South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan. Three North Korean bombers attacked a memorial event. In total, 21 people lost their lives, including four South Korean top officials–but President Chun was saved because bad traffic caused him to be late.
19. Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
This is a picture of the Hally family on-board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. According to American and German officials, the plane was shot down over Ukraine by a missile by pro-Russian insurgents, who likely believed it was an enemy plane. All 298 people on the plane lost their lives.
18. Granite Mountain Hotshots against the Yarnell Hill Fire
The Granite Mountain Hotshots were an offshoot of the Prescott, Arizona fire department who specifically fought wildfires. They went to fight a massive wildfire in Yarnell Hill ignited by lightning. Unfortunately, the fire overran and 19 of the 20 members lost their lives. It was the greatest loss of firefighters since September 11th.
17. Omagh bombing
In 1998, a car bomb placed by the Real Irish Republican Army went off in Omagh, Ireland in the red car pictured here. The bomb ended the lives of 31 people. The father and son in the picture survived, but the photographer did not.
16. Memorial Day massacre of 1937
On May 30, 1937, the Chicago Police Department fired on unarmed steel workers and their families who were on strike and marching toward the steel mill. Ten people lost their lives and 30 were injured.
15. Elisa Lam and the water tank mystery
A college student named Elisa Lam disappeared in 2013. Her body was eventually found in a water tank at the top of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles. In her final moments alive, she was filmed getting on and off the elevator, talking to herself, and seemingly hiding from someone. No one knows how she ended up in the water tank.
14. Dave Sanders at Columbine High School
When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, they shot 12 students and one teacher. That one teacher was William “Dave” Sanders who ran to the cafeteria to warn students. He was able to safely evacuate everyone in the room, even though he later lost his own life.
13. Robin Williams
This is the final known image of comedic actor Robin Williams, taken here with a fan a few days before he took his own life. Williams had a lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, and a recent diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia may have contributed to his mental state.
12. Japan Airlines Flight 123
In 1985, a Boeing 747 flying from Tokyo to Osaka had a sudden explosive decompression because of a faulty repair. The plane then crashed into Mount Takamagahara. All 15 crew members and 505 of 509 passengers lost their lives, making it the worst single-aircraft accident ever.
11. The Flying Priest
In 2008, Adelir Antônio de Carli, a Brazilian priest, attempted to break the world record for cluster ballooning by staying in the air with 600 balloons for over 19 hours. He trained for the event, but he didn’t know how to use his phone’s GPS to alert people to his location. Parts of his body washed ashore two months after he took off.
10. James Dean
The beloved actor from Rebel Without a Cause was pictured with his Porsche at a gas station in 1955, just hours before his fatal crash with the same car. He was on his way to a racing event.
9. Last Parkour leap
In 2013, Pavel Kashin, a noted free runner and Parkour enthusiast, performed his last trick. He was trying to back flip against the wall, lost his balance, and fell 16 stories. He did not survive his injuries. His friends captured the image.
8. Robert Overacker
In 1995, daredevil Robert Overacker was attempting to jet ski over Niagara Falls in order to raise awareness for the homeless. Unfortunately, his parachute failed to open and he lost his life.
7. Notorious B.I.G.
This is the last photo ever taken of rapper Notorious B.I.G. He’s pictured here with his friend Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. After he left this party, his life ended in a drive-by shooting which remains unsolved.
6. Mt. Everest explorers
George Mallory and Sandy Irvine are pictured here in 1924 at their camp at the base of Mt. Everest, shortly before beginning the ascent of a journey from which they would never return. They were attempting to be the first to reach the top of Mt. Everest–whether or not they reached their goal before dying is still a topic of debate.
5. Bear attack in West Milford, NJ
In 2014, Darsh Patel, age 22, took this picture of a bear that kept approaching him and the group of friends with whom he was hiking. He lost his life after the bear attacked him, and his cell phone was found with puncture wounds.
4. Moments before the jump
Heather Price Papayoti is pictured here looking over the Hoover Dam bypass bridge on January 16, 2014. Just moments later, she jumped over the railing and ended her own life.
3. Freddie Mercury in his garden
Pictures of Freddie Mercury in April 1991 surfaced and led to reports that he had AIDS. Mercury denied the rumors that he was ill until two days before his life ended on November 24, 1991. He gained notoriety as the first major rock star to pass from AIDS.
2. Fire at The Station nightclub
The band Great White was performing at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island in 2003 when a fire caused by the band’s pyrotechnics and flammable sound insulation broke out and ended the lives of 100 people, including guitarist Ty Longley. In this picture, a musician notices the start of the fire.