By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY
A year-long search for the unluckiest traveler is over and the lucky winner will be announced this evening in New York.
But before the winner steps forward to claim a $10,000 vacation prize, the erstwhile travelers with what were deemed the most pitiful tales (a helicopter crash, being stranded at sea and a tumble over a cliff) have convened in New York for the announcement.
The World's Unluckiest Traveler Contest, sponsored by the trip insurance company Travel Guard, kicked off last January with an invitation to the public to submit stories of their most harrowing travel mishaps. More than 800 vacation disaster stories came in. Monthly winners were selected in an on-line vote and in December, three finalists were picked from the 11 monthly winners.
Here's your chance to weigh in on who you think should take the prize.
Finalist No. 1: Robert Woodburn of Galloway, New Brunswick, was enjoying a visit to Las Vegas with his wife, when they decided to take a helicopter sightseeing flight to the Grand Canyon. The engine failed mid-flight and the copter made an emergency landing between the canyon wall and the Colorado River. Fortunately, no one was injured. The worst part: having to get back in a replacement copter for the trip out.
Finalist No. 2: Gary Feldman, a geneticist from Ventura, Calif., wasn't so fortunate when at the start of what was to be a month-long medical mission in Vietnam, he stepped to the edge of a cliff to admire the view (and answer nature's call while he was at it). He tumbled 30 feet, shattering his right leg. After a 10-man rescue and a 14-hour ambulance ride, he wound up in a hospital in Bangkok. Seven surgeries later, he's still not able to use the leg.
Finalist No. 3: Carmia Feldman of Davis, Calif., got more adventure than she'd bargained for when she and a friend set out after a semester in Costa Rica to explore more of Central America. After missing the ferry from Guatemala to Belize, they hitched a ride on a motorized canoe heaped with passengers and cargo. The motor failed. A storm blew in. Hours later, a soggy and sick Feldman arrived in Belize.
Who's your pick for Unluckiest Traveler and do you have a tale to share that's more miserable than these?