Ernest Hemingway's Plane Crashes
In Africa he was seriously injured in two successive plane crashes: he sprained his right shoulder, arm, and left leg; had a concussion; temporarily lost vision in his left eye and the hearing in his left ear; suffered paralysis of the spine; had a crushed vertebra, ruptured liver, spleen and kidney; and sustained first degree burns on his face, arms, and leg. Some American newspapers published his obituary, believing he had been killed. A month later he was again badly injured in a bushfire accident, which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm.
After a boat ride across Lake Victoria they took another flight in a de Haviland Rapide, this time piloted by Reginald Cartwright. Heading toward Uganda the plane barely got off the ground before crashing and catching fire. Cartwright, Mary and Roy Marsh made it through an exit at the front of the plane. Hemingway, using his head as a battering ram, broke through the main door. The crash had injured Hemingway more than most would know. In his biography of Hemingway Jeffrey Meyer lists the various injuries to the writer. "His skull was fractured, two discs of his spine were cracked, his right arm and shoulder were dislocated, his liver, right kidney and spleen were ruptured, his sphincter muscle was paralyzed by compressed vertebrae on the iliac nerve, his arms, face and head were burned by the flames of the plane, his vision and hearing were impaired..." Though he survived the crashes and lived to read his own premature obituaries, his injuries cut short his life in a slow and painful way.
Forty-eight hours after they crashed near Murchison Falls and were rescued by a passing sight-seeing boat, they crashed again. The second crash was more serious. Hemingway sustained a ruptured kidney, a sprained arm and leg, crushed vertebrae, a paralysed sphincter, a burnt scalp and the temporary loss of hearing and eyesight. He and Mary were incorrectly reported dead in several newspapers around the world. Hemingway had the pleasure of reading his obituary days later, very much alive, in a cafe in Venice.
Ernest Hemingway Collection: Ernest Hemingway in Africa