Watch Seconds From Disaster

Seconds From Disaster is a documentary series that profiles a number of man-made and natural disasters that have taken place throughout history. Ashton Smith, Richard Vaughn, and Peter Guiness have served as the show's narrators. The show deals with a number of incidents including hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, floods, airline crashes and bombings. Each episode is presented with in-depth analysis of the events that lead up to the disaster, interviews with survivors, witnesses, and professionals in the related field. The show also features terrifying reenactments of the events and actual photos and film footage of what transpires before, during and after the disaster.

Some of the disasters profiled include the "Crash of the Concorde," which outlines the tragedy of the Air France Flight 4790; "The Bomb in Oklahoma City," a profile of the gruesome bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh; "The Space Shuttle Columbia," where six astronauts were killed when the shuttle exploded upon entering the Earth's atmosphere; "Tornado Outbreak," which features the deadly April 3-4, 1974 tornado outbreak that spawned over 149 tornadoes--mostly F4s and F5s--killing over 350 people, and "American Airlines Flight 77," outlining the doomed flight on 9-11, which slammed into the Pentagon.

The series uses enhanced CGI technology to break down the structural failures of the events in second by second detail. Viewers can see a chronological clock that counts down the events as they take place. Experts are on hand to analyze the cause of the incidents and why they happened, and each sequence has the clock winding back to go over the event. The last sequence focuses on the survivors and family members. Survivors relay their thoughts about the tragedy and how it affected their lives. Most survivors are able to recount their experience in graphic detail. They also pay homage to the police, fire, doctors and rescue professionals who assisted them and others. The show outlines preventative measures increase safety and decrease the number of injuries and deaths.

Tuesday 9:00 PM et/pt on National Geographic
4 Seasons, 49 Episodes
July 6, 2004
Nature, Science & Technology, Documentary & Biography
Cast: Ashton Smith, Richard Vaughan, Richard Vaughn
Seconds From Disaster

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Seconds From Disaster Full Episode Guide

  • The crash of American Airlines Flight 191 on May 25, 1979, is chronicled. At least 270 died, making it one of the worst air disasters in U.S. history. Moments after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the left wing separated from the plane, causing it to nose-dive. "Chicago Flight 191" examines the chain of events that led up to the tragedy.

  • The deadly June 25, 1997, eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, is recalled. Included: eyewitness accounts, computer simulation and reports from a scientific-investigation team.

  • The Jan. 28, 1986, space shuttle Challenger tragedy is recalled. All seven passengers on the craft were killed when it exploded 73 seconds after launch.

  • The March 23, 2005, explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, is recalled. Fifteen people were killed and more than 170 were injured when a spark from an idling vehicle ignited gas vapors and grew into a massive fire.

  • The March 23, 2005, explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, is recalled. Fifteen people were killed and more than 170 were injured when a spark from an idling vehicle ignited gas vapors and grew into a massive fire.

  • Experts probe the super-outbreak of tornadoes of 1974, when 148 twisters touched down in less than 18 hours, killing more than 300 people in 13 states, making it the worst tornado outbreak in U.S. history.

  • More than 270 people died in the May 25, 1979, crash of American Airlines Flight 191, making it one of the worst air disasters in U.S. history. Moments after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare airport, the left wing detached from the jet, causing the plane to nosedive to the ground. "Flight Engine Down" examines the chain of events leading to the tragedy.

  • Recalling the August 12, 2000, sinking of the Russian Navy's Kursk submarine in the Barents Sea, when two explosions went off during a military training exercise. Initially, 23 survived the blasts, but all 118 sailors onboard eventually perished.

  • Investigating the January 1954 crash of De Havilland Comet Flight 781, an early passenger jet, which went down in the Tyrrhenian Sea while en route to London, killing everyone onboard.

  • Recalling the Nov. 18, 1987, fire in London's King's Cross underground station that killed 31 people. The blaze began when trash and grease under a wooden escalator caught fire.

  • Recalling the Dec. 26, 2004, South Asian tsunami, which ultimately killed more than 200,000 people and entire communities were destroyed after a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean set off the tidal wave.

  • Chronicling Florida's worst air disaster, the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, a Miami-Atlanta DC-9 that slammed into the Everglades on May 11, 1996, killing all 110 people on board. The cause, a fire ignited by oxygen-generating canisters that had been improperly packaged and placed in the plane's cargo hold, was determined by the NTSB to have been preventable; and ValuJet's maintenance contractor was convicted of the criminal charge of recklessly causing hazardous materials to be transported.

  • An examination of events leading up to the July 29, 1967, explosion on board the USS Forrestal, which killed 134 servicemen. The crew was preparing for a combat mission in the Gulf of Tonkin when a parked fighter jet accidentally fired a rocket on the carrier, setting off a chain of explosions. Advanced computer simulations are used to reconstruct events.

  • Examining the Jan. 13, 1982, crash of Air Florida Flight 90. Soon after takeoff, the plane hit the 14th St. bridge in Washington, D.C., before plunging into the Potomac River, killing 78 people, including four motorists on the bridge and all but five passengers.

  • A look at events that lead up to the June 29, 1995, collapse of the five-story Sampoong department store in Seoul, South Korea, where hundreds were killed.

  • Recalling the September 1972 slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich. Included: eyewitness accounts and computer simulation of events; analysis of the failed rescue mission.

  • Recalling the November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Rockaway, N.Y., that killed 265 people. Terrorism was initially suspected, given the proximity to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, but problems after takeoff were eventually blamed.

  • The April 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic in the North Atlantic is examined.

  • On May 11, 1996, a fire started in the ValuJet flight 592, which was heading from Miami International Airport (Miami, Florida) to Hartsfield International Airport (Atlanta, Georgia). The plane crashed in the Everglades swamps which were infested by alligators. The few survivors of the crash were killed and eaten by them. What started the fire? Was it a coincidence or it was caused by a bad maintenance?

  • On November 18, 1987, a devastating fire erupted on the London's subway. This terrible accident killed more than 30 people and it's been one of the worse underground accidents in the history. What happened?

  • Russian K-141 Kursk nuclear cruise missile submarine was one of the best submarines of the Russian Amy. On August 12, 2000, The Kursk sailed out to sea to perform an exercise of firing dummy torpedoes. Suddenly, the captain heard an explosion and the submarine sank. Why?

  • On October 4, 1992, El Al Flight 1862 crashed into the Groeneveen and Klein-Kruitberg flats in the Bijlmer neighborhood, Amsterdam. 43 people died and a lot were injured. What happened?

  • On July 17, 1981, during a dance contest, the new Hyatt Regency Hotel (Kansas) collapsed, killing more than 100 people. What structural problems did the hotel have?

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