The ten male soccer spectators who were struck by lightning in the Boston area on Sunday had taken refuge under a tree when a storm hit and were a great example of a rare phenomenon.
Some occurrences as cited on a law-oriented personal injury page include: “A 42-year-old Texas man died of a brain hemorrhage when he was trying to steal a statue of the Virgin Mary from a local nursery, a woman's boyfriend, tossing sticks to his dog decided to toss a knife instead which caught on his finger, looped back and stuck his girlfriend in the throat, and traders turned on Greenpeace protesters at the International Petroleum Exchange, punching and kicking them until they ran for their lives.”
The list of astonishing life occurrences can be largely objective—and long. Among the most popular, getting eaten by a shark and getting struck by lightning are two of the top. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute the calculated probability of getting struck by lightning are one to 280,000 people; approximately 1,000 people per year. More realistically, the actual recorded number, by the National Weather Service, is 400 people struck each year.
To get a grasp of how unique of an occurrence of getting eaten by a shark would be it is necessary to consider the “summer of the sharks.” In 2001, the year that acquired such a name, only five people died worldwide from shark attacks. According to George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida, “The reality is, as a biologist, this is a non-problem. It's a minor, minor thing.” Interestingly, the Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department provides a comprehensive list of occurrences of shark bites compared with other oddities like alligator attacks, tornadoes and sand-hole incidents, which serves to support Burgess’ claim.
Also in the area of sea life, in 2006, an accident involving a dolphin and a woman on a boat in Auckland beat the odds three million to one. As it was, a dolphin jumped onto the woman’s boat and landed on her causing the unsuspecting victim to have a cardiac arrest and serious head injuries. A local Otago University marine mammal biologist Liz Slooten enunciates about the odds of such a weird occurrence. “The number of dolphins that injure, let alone kill, a human would be one in 100 years.”
A more common fear involves the instance of a plane crash. The book "Beyond the Black Box: The Forensics of Airplane Crashes" by George Bibel talks about the “who, what, why, where, when and how” of plane crashes. The topic addressed by Steven D. Levitt in the “Freakonomics” blog section of the New York Times surmises that after throwing out the worst of the crashes of airplanes beyond economic repair, or total hull loss, there is a 90 percent rate of surviving.