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"Darwin Award" Recipient:

You all know about the Darwin Awards - it's an annual honor given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way.

Last year's winner was the fellow who was killed by the Coke machine, which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.

Now we present this year's winner:

The Arizona Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering metal embedded into the side of a cliff rising above the road at the apex of a curve. The wreckage resembled the site of an airplane crash, but it was a car. The type of car was unidentifiable at the scene. The boys at the lab finally figured out what it was, and what had happened.

It seems that a guy (or gal) somehow got hold of a JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) unit that is used to give heavy military transport planes an extra "push" for taking off from short airfields. These are solid-fuel rockets which burn as the airplane starts down the runway, then are discarded once the fuel is spent. (They don't have an 'OFF' switch. They burn until the fuel is gone.) He took the JATO and his (her?) Chevy Impala out into the desert, found a long, straight stretch of road, attached the JATO to the car, jumped in, got up some speed, and fired off the rocket. Best as they could determine, he (she?) was doing somewhere between 250 - 300 mph when he came to that curve ... The brakes were completely burned away, apparently from trying to slow the car.

And for this year's runner-up:

This one needs an intro, so you won't be lost at the beginning. This man was in an accident (work accident, not car accident), so he filled out an insurance claim. The insurance company contacted him and asked for more information. This was his response:

"I am writing in response to your request for additional information for block number 3 of the accident reporting form. I put 'poor planning' as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and I trust the following detail will be sufficient.

I am an amateur radio operator and on the day of the accident, I was working alone on the top section of my new 80 foot tower. When I had completed my work, I discovered that I had, over the course of several trips up the tower, brought up about 300 pounds of tools and spare hardware. Rather than carry the now un-needed tools and material down by hand, I decided to lower the items down in a small barrel by using a pulley, which was fortunately attached to the gin pole at the top of the tower.

Securing the rope at ground level, I went to the top of the tower and loaded the tools and material into the barrel. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the 300 pounds of tools. You will note in block number 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh only 155 pounds. Due to my surprise of being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate of speed up the side of the tower. In the vicinity of the 40 foot level, I met the barrel coming down. This explains my fractured skull and broken collarbone.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley.

Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold onto the rope in spite of my pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of tools hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Devoid of the weight of the tools, the barrel now weighed approximately 20 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block number 11.

As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the tower. In the vicinity of the 40 foot level, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, and the lacerations of my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of tools and, fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked.

I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the tools, in pain, unable to stand and watching the empty barrel 80 feet above me, I again lost my presence of mind. I let go of the rope..."

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