Categories: History

10 of the Most Terrifying Disasters Caused by Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sleep is deemed one of the major causes of massive disasters in history.

There are a million reasons why we need to have a good amount of sleep. First and foremost, it helps us function more efficiently and keeps us away from any form of sickness like common colds. It also allows us to retain key information and, more importantly, it reduces stress.

Apparently, though, a good number of people continue to deprive themselves of sleep. Hence they experience serious effects such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and severe impairment of cognitive functions. All of these prohibit us from becoming the best version of ourselves.

Around 70 percent of the total world population lacks sleep, which could lead to much more serious issues. In fact, some of the biggest disasters in history are rooted directly from sleep deprivation. And without further ado, here they are below.

#10. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Source: ecowatch

Either you’re driving for too long or you’re just plain tired because of sleep deprivation, you know exactly how hard it is to stay aware within those narrow painted lines on the road. Then imagine yourself helming an oil supertanker with little to no sleep at all. You can only imagine the worse, right? The infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill dumped over 42 million liters of oil into the Prince William Sound, which is just off the Alaska coast. The vessel was originally headed for Long Beach, California – a normal route that the Exxon Shipping Company had journeyed since its conception.

The disaster was a total surprise, but Captain Joseph Hazelwood was still responsible for the mishap. It turned out that he downed a couple of drinks and ended up passing his duties to Third Mate Gregory Cousins. Unfortunately, Cousins was sleep-deprived during that time, as he only slept for six hours in the past two days.

#9. The Three Mile Island Accident

On March 1979, the whole world was shocked following an accident that occurred at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor. A valve reportedly became stuck open in the secondary nonnuclear section and it began to leak coolant almost everywhere. It should’ve closed on its own, but it did not and, thus, the pressure didn’t stabilize. By the time the crew retrieved the root cause of the issue, the nuclear reactor’s core had already melted. Investigators ruled that sleep deprivation was the main culprit, with fatigue being added to the mix. The aftermath was so devastating that it took 12 years to clean the entire mess. And the cost? It was a whopping $1 billion worth of money.

#8. The Grounding of the Star Princess Cruise Ship

Source: Dashers

The passengers of the titular Star Princess had one thing in mind: vacation. But unbeknownst to them, they were in for a near-death experience. The seven-day cruise from Vancouver to Skagway, Alaska was cut short on its fifth day when it hit a Poundstone Rock, which was 40 kilometers from Juneau. Although the ship obtained some serious damage, there were no reported injuries or deaths among the crew and passengers. The National Transportation Safety Board revealed that pilot performance was heavily disturbed by sleep apnea and fatigue.

#7. The Challenger Explosion

Source: CBS News

It definitely takes a lot of preparation just to launch a single shuttle into space. This alone results to crews having plenty of sleepless nights and long days of work. On January 1986, the Challenger shuttle launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida exploded 73 seconds after. It killed all seven people aboard, capturing the whole world’s attention. The reason? Poor judgment due to sleep loss. It was revealed that the top managers in charge had been on duty since 1 AM of the day of the launch. They only had a couple of hours of sleep the night before.

#6. Air France Flight 447

Air France Flight 447, a routine passenger flight, left Rio de Janeiro for Paris, France in June 2009. Hours later, it crashed and killed everyone onboard. So how did a routine flight suddenly fell off from the sky and exploded? You certainly know the answer. At first, the flight started off normal. It was so smooth that the captain decided to take a quick nap.

Everything should’ve been fine but the flight ran into a thunderstorm and experienced heavy turbulence. The captain quickly went back to the cockpit to seize control, but it took him one minute to do so. And unfortunately for him and the people onboard, everything happened really fast. The disaster left no survivors.

#5. The Great Heck High-Speed Train Crash

Source: BBC

In all of UK rail disaster, the Great Heck rail crash was pretty much the worst. It was in February 2001 when Gary Hart fell asleep while driving a Land Rover, which was, at that time, pulling a trailer. Hart was believed to have deprived himself of sleep, contributing to the incidence. He veered off the roadway and went straight to a steep embankment before finally hitting the rest of the railway track. Although Hart was able to get out of the vehicle before a passenger train struck it, a second train traveling northbound wreck everything. The crash claimed 10 lives that morning. Six of them were passengers, while the remaining four were crew members.

#4. American Airlines Flight 1420 Crash

Source: NTSB

At first, the weather was ruled to be the major culprit behind the crash of American Airlines Flight 1420. Later on, investigators claimed that this would’ve been prevented had the pilot gained enough sleep. The crew received information that a severe thunderstorm would welcome them mid-flight. In an attempt to outrun the weather, they made some landing decisions that actually caused them to overshoot the runway altogether. It goes without saying that situational stress and fatigue played significant roles in the crash.

#3. Gas Leak in Bhopal, India

Source: The Atlantic

The citizens of Bhopal, India went to bed on December 1984 unaware of the possibility of not waking up again. As they went to slumber, one of the storage tanks located in the Union Carbide India Limited – a pesticide company – began to leak. As the faulty valve allowed water to conquer the tank, pressure quickly rose to catastrophic levels. A loud rumbling was heard before a plume of methyl isocyanate spilled into thin air. And believe it or not, more than 3,800 people died from it. Authorities claimed that drowsy workers were responsible for the very unfortunate event.

#2. Michigan Train Wreck

Source: toledoblade

The early morning routine on November 2001 was disturbed when two Canadian National-Illinois Central freight trains crashed around Clarkston, Michigan. It turned out that the operators of the southbound train failed to recognize stop signals. It was later found out that the two crew members responsible for the disaster were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Neither conductor Jesse Enriquez nor engineer Allen Yash informed their employer of their condition. This opted the National Transportation Safety Board to rule out fatigue as the number one cause of the accident.

#1. Chernobyl

There’s every reason why this one is on top. The accident took place on April 1986 and was due to a series of mistakes courtesy of plant operators. Basically, the No. 4 reactor was running dangerously on low power, which made it quite unstable. The fatigued workers prepared to test just how long the turbines would be able to supply power to the main pumps – something they did the day before the accident. Just seconds after the scheduled maintenance, an explosion happened. The blast was so powerful that it blew that 1,000-ton cover off the reactor and, unfortunately, it killed one individual quickly. And within a few months, 28 other victims died due to acute radiation syndrome. The event was so troublesome that it was deemed as the largest nuclear accident that the whole world has ever seen.

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