darwin awards 2005

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    Talking darwin awards 2005


    (7 March 2005, Hanoi, Vietnam) Nguyen, 21, had been drinking with friends in the Tu Liem district of Hanoi, when he pulled out an old detonator he had found. The detonator was about six centimeters long and 8 centimeters in diameter, with two wires hanging out of the end. Because it was old and rusty, he said, it couldn't explode. His friends disagreed.
    To prove his point, Nguyen put the detonator in his mouth and asked his friend to plug the dangling wires into a 220-volt electrical receptacle. Nyugen was wrong!

    The victim had little time to reflect on how he could have been so mistaken, or whether 220 volts alone could have been fatal. According to police, "the explosion blew out his cheek and smashed all his teeth." Nguyen died on the way to the hospital.

    (28 April 2005, Moscow, Russia) A construction worker drilling the foundation of a parking garage project on Starobitsevskaya Street noticed something shiny stuck to the swiftly rotating auger. He took a closer look but still couldn't identify the shiny object, so he reached down to grab it. Unfortunately, his jacket caught on the auger, winding his hand, his arm, and then his whole body into the apparatus. By the time his fellow workers could shut down the rig, "only the man's legs below the knees remained intact," according to the daily newspaper.

    (19 March 2005, Michigan) "Unusual" and "complicated" is how the Missaukee County sheriff described the mysterious death of 19-year-old Christopher, who called 911 at 1:22am and calmly informed the police dispatcher that his neighbor had stabbed him. Suddenly he began screaming and begging for help. A woman was heard shouting in the background, "Why did you do this?" Deputies arrived quickly, only to find that Christopher had bled to death from stab wounds to his chest.
    After an evening spent imbibing large quantities of alcohol, Christopher noticed a shortage in his liquor supply that could not be attributed to his own depredations. He concluded that his neighbor had stolen a bottle of booze! He menaced said neighbor with a knife, to no avail, whereupon he retired to his own apartment to brood about revenge.

    Finally he figured out the perfect way to get back at that conniving bottle-thief: he would stab himself and blame the neighbor!

    A witness saw Christopher enter the bathroom while he called police. When he emerged from the bathroom, he looked perfectly fine, but a moment later he began screaming as gouts of blood spewed from his chest. He ran to the door of the apartment, and collapsed.

    The evidence pointed to self-inflicted wounds. Deputies found the knife that killed him in the kitchen, and an autopsy concluded that he had stabbed himself in the chest twice. The first wound may not have looked dangerous enough to him, so he took the knife and tried again, this time plunging it into his left ventricle. This wound was plenty dangerous: he had only two minutes to live.

    Christopher died in vain. His deathbed accusation fell on deaf ears, as a witness stated that the neighbor was not in the apartment, and the neighbor offered to take a lie-detector test to demonstrate his innocence. All Christopher got for revenge was an accidental death sentence.

    (27 July 2005, California) Robert, 35, was eager to hang out with the nudists at the Palm Springs campground in a part of Death Valley where temperatures reached 136 degrees. The track was rough but passable until he was lured into the Saline Mud Flats by its dry, crackled surface, radiating heat in the baking sun. Within a few feet, the wheels of his VW microbus sunk deep into the muck that lay hidden beneath the deceptively dry crust.
    Robert was miles from nowhere, surrounded by the bleached skulls of animals that had become trapped in the mire. But he had plenty of water, so he waited for help to find him on the remote dirt track. After six days, he abandoned the microbus and began walking to a less deserted track where someone was more likely to pass by.

    Luck was with him. As he was shaking the last drop of water from his last bottle, help arrived in the form of intrepid 14-year-old British lads from the League of Venturers, who were training in search-and-rescue techniques. "He was crying and completely hysterical. I don't think he'd expected to last the day," said the unit leader. They gave him a lift to the nearest ranger station, 80 miles away, where he kissed the ground in gratitude.

    Although Robert had cheated death once, that didn't stop him from tempting fate again.

    In nearby Bishop, he found someone to tow the microbus out of the mudflats. Alas, it had two flat tires and other mechanical problems, so he returned to Bishop for automotive supplies. He snagged another ride into Death Valley, this time with a couple who took an unfamiliar route from the north, and dropped him off at a washout in the road about 15 miles from the Palm Springs campground.

    His plan was to locate the campground, and once there, enlist help fixing his vehicle. He stashed his supplies and began walking. His body was found three days later, without a map, a GPS, or even water. Authorities estimated that he had walked along the road for 10 miles before heading into the open desert, seeking water.

    (17 April 2005, Indiana) Late one night, 26-year-old Joseph was blazing down the road in the Chain O'Lakes district of Syracuse on his Yamaha moped. When he saw flashing lights in his rear-view mirror, well... with the wind whistling through his ears, he must have concluded that he could outrun a mere police cruiser. This hard-boiled candidate for the Heck's Angels revved his engine and roared off. The speedometer needle flashed past 10 mph...20...30...and within less than a minute, it was hitting the red zone at a blinding 40 mph.
    But no matter how fast Joseph went, he was unable to shake the pursuing police officer from his tail. If only he had a spare JATO strapped to his machine! The two-stroke engine was buzzing like a hummingbird from the strain of the chase.

    Was he thinking, "You'll never get me alive, copper!" as he sped through the intersection with County Road 800E? The answer will never be known. Joseph lost control of his would-be road rocket, crashed into a tree, and died instantly of massive head injuries.

    (3 January 2005, St. Maurice, Switzerland) It was the first week of a weapons refresher course, and Swiss Army Grenadier Detachment 20/5 had just finished training with live ammunition. The shooting instructor ordered the soldiers to secure their weapons for a break.
    The 24-year-old second lieutenant, in charge of this detachment, decided this would be a good time to demonstrate a knife attack on a soldier. Wielding his bayonet, he leaped toward one of his men, achieving complete surprise.

    But earlier that week, the soldiers had been drilled to release the safety catch and ready their guns for firing in the shortest possible time. The surprised soldier, seeing his lieutenant leaping toward him with a knife, snapped off a shot to protect himself from the attack.

    The lesson could not have been more successful: the soldier had saved himself and protected the rest of the detachment from a surprise attack. The lieutenant might have wished to commend his soldier on his quick action and accurate marksmanship. Unfortunately, he had been killed with one shot.

    (28 January 2005, Pendang, Thailand) It's no secret that elephants are big. Elephants eat hundreds of pounds of food a day just to maintain their weight. Indian elephants are nine feet tall at the shoulder, and the males have tusks that extend over three feet. They're so powerful that in Southeast Asia they are used to haul massive tree trunks with their tusks, work performed by heavy equipment in other countries.
    It's also no secret that teasing an animal can make it mad. Teasing a nine-foot-tall animal that can carry a tree with its three-foot tusks may not be a good idea. Yet that was the very idea that formed in Prawat's head, when he saw a herd of five performing elephants chained to trees outside a Buddhist temple.

    While the owner waited inside for an entertainment permit, Prawat, a 50-year-old rubber-tapper, offered sugar cane to one of the ever-hungry elephants... then pulled it away. Then he did it again. And again. And again.

    The game was great fun for Prawat, but the elephant quickly tired of it. The last time Prawat withdrew the treat, the elephant swung his massive tusks and gored him through the stomach. He died on the way to Alor Star Hospital.

    15 February 2005, Rushinga, Zimbabwe
    The elephants were trampling Christian's maize field, which he planted on an elephant trail of long standing. He had to find a way to fight back! Fortunately, there was an old minefield nearby, on the Zimabwe-Mozambique border. Christian figured a few landmines planted around his field would soon teach the elephants a lesson they would never forget.

    Christian may have gotten the idea of using the mines from a couple of incidents that had recently transpired. A local resident had been injured after picking up a landmine while herding cattle the week before. A week before that, another Rushinga man had lost part of his leg after stepping on a landmine. The other villagers saw the writing on the wall, and avoided the landmines.

    But Christian realized they were just what he needed! Clearly, these mines could cause great damage to an elephant! He dug up five that had been exposed by recent heavy rains, and began carrying them home.

    These unstable mines detonated, killing Christian instantly.

    Then total number of elephants injured? Zero.

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    I just read the whole damn thing! Priceless!

    And there are people out there who doubt Darwin's theory!
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    I love this stuff. I still crack up everytime I hear the Lawn Chair Larry story.

    (1982, California) Larry Walters of Los Angeles is one of the few to contend for the Darwin Awards and live to tell the tale. "I have fulfilled my 20-year dream," said Walters, a former truck driver for a company that makes TV commercials. "I'm staying on the ground. I've proved the thing works."
    Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. But fates conspired to keep him from his dream. He joined the Air Force, but his poor eyesight disqualified him from the job of pilot. After he was discharged from the military, he sat in his backyard watching jets fly overhead.
    He hatched his weather balloon scheme while sitting outside in his "extremely comfortable" Sears lawnchair. He purchased 45 weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store, tied them to his tethered lawnchair dubbed the Inspiration I, and filled the 4' diameter balloons with helium. Then he strapped himself into his lawnchair with some sandwiches, Miller Lite, and a pellet gun. He figured he would pop a few of the many balloons when it was time to descend.
    Larry's plan was to sever the anchor and lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard, where he would enjoy a few hours of flight before coming back down. But things didn't work out quite as Larry planned.
    When his friends cut the cord anchoring the lawnchair to his Jeep, he did not float lazily up to 30 feet. Instead, he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon, pulled by the lift of 42 helium balloons holding 33 cubic feet of helium each. He didn't level off at 100 feet, nor did he level off at 1000 feet. After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 16,000 feet.
    At that height he felt he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting cold and frightened with his beer and sandwiches, for more than 14 hours. He crossed the primary approach corridor of LAX, where Trans World Airlines and Delta Airlines pilots radioed in reports of the strange sight.
    Eventually he gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons, and slowly descended. The hanging tethers tangled and caught in a power line, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes. Larry climbed to safety, where he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked him why he had done it. Larry replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around."
    The Federal Aviation Administration was not amused. Safety Inspector Neal Savoy said, "We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, a charge will be filed."

    Footnote:
    Larry's efforts won him a $1,500 FAA fine, a prize from the Bonehead Club of Dallas, the altitude record for gas-filled clustered balloons, and a Darwin Awards Honorable Mention. He gave his aluminum lawnchair to admiring neighborhood children, abandoned his truck-driving job, and went on the lecture circuit. He enjoyed intermittent demand as a motivational speaker, but said he never made much money from his innovative flight. He never married and had no children. Larry hiked into the forest and shot himself in the heart on October 6, 1993. He died at the age of 44.
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    There was another guy that did the same thing with balloons. Only he was saved by the coast guard after drifting 10+ miles out over the pacific.

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