Imagine being locked up in a dark, damp cell for 18 days, with no food, no water, and no one to help you. That’s what happened to Andreas Mihavecz, an 18-year-old Austrian who holds the record of surviving the longest without food and water.
Mihavecz was arrested after a car accident on April 1, 1979, and put into a holding cell in a basement jail in Bregenz, Austria. But the police officers who arrested him forgot about him and went on vacation. He was left alone in the cell, with only a small window and a sink that dripped water occasionally.
He tried to get the attention of anyone who passed by, but no one heard him. He drank the water from the sink and licked the condensation from the walls. He had no idea how long he had been there or if anyone would ever find him.
“I was sure that I would not survive. I had already said goodbye to life,” he later recalled.
He was only discovered by chance on April 18, 1979, when another officer opened his cell. He was shocked to see Mihavecz lying on the floor, barely alive. He had lost 24 kg and was close to death.
“He looked like a skeleton with skin. He could hardly speak or move. It was a miracle that he was still alive,” said Dr. Franz Koeck, who treated Mihavecz at the hospital.
Mihavecz holds the Guinness World Record for the longest survival without food and water, beating the previous record of 18 days by Gandhi in 1924. According to experts, the human body can survive for about three weeks without food, but only about three to four days without water.
“He must have had an extraordinary will to live. He is a very lucky man,” said Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records.
Mihavecz recovered from his ordeal and sued the police for negligence. He received a compensation of 270,000 Austrian schillings (about $18,000).
“It was a terrible mistake. We are deeply sorry for what happened to Mr. Mihavecz. It was a human error that should never have occurred,” said police spokesman Franz Fuchs.
Mihavecz’s story has been featured in several media outlets and documentaries over the years. He has also been contacted by people who want to learn from his experience and resilience.
“I don’t want to be famous for this. I just want to live a normal life,” he said.
– Owner of Guinness World Record for surviving the longest time without food or drink is Austrian man who was locked up at age 18 before police ‘totally forgot’ about him for 18 days, Daily Mail, September 27, 2023
– How long can you survive without water?, BBC News, October 20, 2020
– The Forgotten Prisoners, The Guardian, May 27, 2001