The 1997 Darwin Awards
For the uninitiated, the Darwin awards are given to people who
perform, or fail to perform amazing stunts of stupidity, the only rule
is that they must be unable to subsequently reproduce (hence the
evolution link). For most this means death, but there are some
It is once again time to vote for the Darwin Award nominees for 1997.
Thankfully, these nominees will no longer be contributing to the gene
pool. You may recall last year's (1996) Darwin Award winner: the man
who found out moments before making a 300 MPH dent in an Arizona cliff
that the JATO (jet assist take off) unit he'd strapped to his car could
not be turned off once it was turned on. And 1995's winner was the
fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled on top of him as
he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
The 1997 nominees are:
- [San Jose Mercury News] An unidentified man, using a shotgun
like a club to break a former girlfriend's windshield, accidentally shot
himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.
- [Kalamazoo Gazette] James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Mich., was
killed in March as he was trying to repair what police described as a
"farm-type truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway
while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a
troubling noise. Burns' clothes caught on something, however, and the
other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft."
- [Reuters, Mississauga, Ontario] Man slips, falls 23 stories to
his death. A man cleaning a bird feeder on his balcony of his condominium
apartment in this Toronto suburb slipped and fell 23 stories to his
death, police said Monday. Stefan Macko, 55, was standing on a wheeled
chair Sunday when the accident occurred, said Inspector D'Arcy Honer of
the Peel regional police."It appears the chair moved and he went over the
balcony," Honer said. "It's one of those freak accidents. No foul play is
[Hickory Daily Record] Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally
shot himself to death in December in Newton, N.C., when, awakening to
the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the
phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, which discharged
when he drew it to his ear.
[UPI, Toronto] Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety
of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with
his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said
Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank
Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the
building's windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had
conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports.
Peter Lauwers, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the
Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was "one of the best and brightest" of
the 200-man association.
[AP, Cairo, Egypt] Six people drowned Monday while trying to
rescue a chicken that had fallen into a well in southern Egypt. An
18-year-old farmer was the first to descend into the 60-foot well. He
drowned, apparently after an undercurrent in the water pulled him down,
police said. His sister and two brothers, none of whom could swim well,
went in one by one to help him, but also drowned. Two elderly farmers
then came to help, but they apparently were pulled by the same
undercurrent. The bodies of the six were later pulled out of the well in
the village of Nazlat Imara, 240 miles south of Cairo. The chicken was
[Bloomburg News Service, 25 March] A terrible diet and room
with no ventilation are being blamed for the death of a man who was
killed by his own gas. There was no mark on his body but autopsy showed
large amounts of methane gas in his system. His diet had consisted
primarily of beans and cabbage (and a couple of other things). It was
just the right combination of foods. It appears that the man died in his
sleep from breathing from the poisonous cloud that was hanging over his
bed. Had he been outside or had his windows been opened, it wouldn't
have been fatal. But the man was shut up in his near airtight bedroom.
He was "...a big man with a huge capacity for creating [this deadly
gas]." Three of the rescuers got sick and one was hospitalized.
[San Jose Mercury News] A 24-year-old salesman from Hialeah,
Fla., was killed near Lantana, Fla., in March when his car smashed into
a pole in the median strip of Interstate 95 in the middle of the
afternoon. Police said that the man was traveling at 80 MPH and,
judging by the sales manual that was found open and clutched to his
chest, had been busy reading.
[The News of the weird.] JOINT NOMINEE Michael Anderson
Godwin made News of the Weird posthumously in 1989. He had spent several
years awaiting South Carolina's electric chair on a murder conviction
before having his sentence reduced to life in prison. In March 1989,
sitting on a metal toilet in his cell and attempting to fix his small TV
set, he bit into a wire and was electrocuted. On Jan. 1, 1997, Laurence
Baker, also a convicted murderer once on death row, but later serving a
life sentence at the state prison in Pittsburgh, Pa., was electrocuted
by his homemade earphones as he watched his small TV while sitting on
his metal toilet.
["The Indianapolis Star"]. Cigarette lighter may have
triggered fatal explosion Dunkirk, Indiana. A Jay County man using a
cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzleloader was killed Monday
night when the weapon discharged in his face, sheriff's investigators
said. Gregory David Pryor, 19, died in his parents' rural Dunkirk home
about 11:30 p.m. Investigators said Pryor was cleaning a .54-caliber
muzzleloader that had not been firing properly. He was using the lighter
to look into the barrel when the gunpowder ignited.
[AP, Mammoth Lakes] A San Anselmo man died yesterday when he
hit a lift tower at the Mammoth Mountain ski area while riding down the
slope on a foam pad, authorities said. Matthew David Hubal, 22, was
pronounced dead at Centinela Mammoth Hospital. The accident occurred
about 3 a.m., the Mono County Sheriff's Department said. Hubal and his
friends apparently had hiked up a ski run called Stump Alley and undid
some yellow foam protectors from the lift towers, said Lieutenant Mike
Donnelly of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department. The pads are used to
protect skiers who might hit the towers. The group apparently used the
pads to slide down the ski slope and Hubal crashed into a tower. It was
not clear if the tower he hit was one with its pad removed. "With the
cold temperatures, the snow was probably pretty fast," said Donnelly.
[Reuters, Warsaw, Poland] A poacher electrocuting fish in a
lake in central Poland fell into the water and suffered the same fate as
his quarry, police said Thursday. The 24-year-old man was one of four
who went fishing with a cable, one end of which they attached to a net
and the other to a high-voltage electricity supply line, the PAP news
agency quoted a police official in Wloclawek as saying. "For a while
everything went according to the poachers' plan and they had fish in
their bags. But at a certain moment the man holding the net tripped and
fell into the water," the agency said. The other poachers tried in vain
to revive him, it said.
[AP, St. Louis] Robert Puelo, 32, was apparently being
disorderly in a St. Louis market. When the clerk threatened to call
police, Puelo grabbed a hot dog, shoved it in his mouth, and walked out
without paying for it. Police found him unconscious in front of the
store: paramedics removed the six-inch wiener from his throat, where it
had choked him to death.
[Unknown] To poacher Marino Malerba, who shot a stag standing
above him on an overhanging rock-and was killed instantly when it fell
[Associated Press, Kincaid, W. VA] Blasting Cap Explodes in
Man's Mouth at Party. A man at a party popped a blasting cap into his
mouth and bit down, triggering an explosion that blew off his lips,
teeth and tongue, state police said Wednesday. Jerry Stromyer, 24, of
Kincaid, bit the blasting cap as a prank during a party late Tuesday
night, said Cpl. M.D.Payne. 'Another man had it in an aquarium, hooked
to a battery, and was trying to explode it," Payne said. "It wouldn't go
off and this guy said, 'I'll show you how to set it off. "I just can't
imagine anyone doing that," Payne said.
In December near Mineral Wells, Tex., three men who were
attempting to steal copper wire off live electrical lines for resale
were electrocuted. Copper wiring is a valuable scrap metal in Texas but
is usually stolen from "dead" electric cables.
A future nominee/winner, that hasn't quite met full Darwin criteria:
[UPI, Portland, OR] Doctors at Portland's University
Hospital said Wednesday an Oregon man shot through the skull by a
hunting arrow is lucky to be alive, and will be released soon from the
hospital. Tony Roberts, 25, lost his right eye last weekend during an
initiation into a men's rafting club, Mountain Men Anonymous, in Grants
Pass, Ore. A friend tried to shoot a beer can off his head, but the
arrow entered Roberts' right eye. Doctors said had the arrow gone 1
millimeter to the left, a major blood vessel would have cut and Roberts
would have died instantly. Neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw at the
University Hospital in Portland said the arrow went through 8 to 10
inches of brain, with the tip protruding at the rear of his skull, yet
somehow managed to miss all major blood vessels. Delashaw also said had
Robert tried to pull the arrow out on his own he surely would have
killed himself. Roberts admitted afterwards he and his friends had been
drinking that afternoon. Said Roberts, "I feel dumb" No charges have
been filed but the Josephine County district attorney's office said the
initiation stunt is under investigation.
A future nominee/winner, that hasn't quite met full Darwin criteria:
[Arkansas Democrat Gazette, July 25, 1996] Two Local Men
Injured in Freak Truck Accident, Cotton Patch, Ark. Two local men were
seriously injured when their pick-up truck left the road and struck a
tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38 early Monday morning.
Woodruff County deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after
midnight Monday. Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc and Billy Ray Wallis,
38, of Little Rock are listed in serious condition at Baptist Medical
Center. The accident occurred as the two men were returning to Des Arc
after a frog gigging trip. On an overcast Sunday night, Poole's pick-up
truck headlights malfunctioned. The two men concluded that the headlight
fuse on the older model truck had burned out. As a replacement fuse was
not available, Wallis noticed that the .22 caliber bullet from his
pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering wheel
Upon inserting the bullet, the headlights again began to operate properly
and the two men proceeded on east-bound toward the White River bridge.
After traveling approximately twenty miles and just before crossing the
river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged and struck Poole in
the right testicle. The vehicle swerved sharply to the right exiting the
pavement and striking a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and
abrasions from the accident, but will require surgery to repair the other
wound. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released.
"Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston shot his nuts off or
we might both be dead" stated Wallis. "I've been a trooper for ten years
in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can't believe
that those two would admit how this accident happened", said Snyder.
So you want more, eh? then read on...
BUXTON, N.C. A man died on a beach when an 8-foot-deep hole he had dug
into the sand caved in as he sat inside it. Beachgoers said Daniel
Jones, 21, dug the hole for fun, or protection from the wind, and had
been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom Thursday afternoon when it
collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand. People on the beach on
the Outer Banks used their hands and shovels, trying to claw their way
to Jones, a resident of Woodbridge, Va., but could not reach him. It
took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him
while about 200 people looked on. Jones was pronounced dead at a
hospital. "You just wouldn't believe the outpouring of concern, people
digging with their hands, using pails from kids," Dare County Sheriff
Bert Austin said.
In February, Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed in Lompoc, Calif., as
he fell face-first through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was
burglarizing. Death was caused when the large flashlight he had placed
in his mouth(to keep his hands free) crammed against the base of his
skull as he hit the floor.
According to police in Dahlonega, Ga., ROTC cadet Nick Berrena, 20,
was stabbed to death in January by fellow cadet Jeffrey Hoffman, 23, who
was trying to prove that a knife could not penetrate the flak vest
Berrena was wearing.
Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed in February in Selbyville,
Del., as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver
loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.
In February, according to police in Windsor, Ont., Daniel Kolta, 27,
and Randy Taylor, 33, died in a head-on collision, thus earning a tie in
the game of chicken they were playing with their snowmobiles.
In October, a 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who "totally
zoned when he ran," according to his wife, accidentally jogged off a
200-foot-high cliff on his daily run.
In September in Detroit, a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in
two feet of water after squeezing headfirst through an 18-inch-widesewer
grate to retrieve his car keys.
In September, a 7-year- old boy fell off a 100-foot-high bluff near
Ozark, Ark., after he lost his grip swinging on a cross that marked the
spot where another person had fallen to his death in 1990.
In Guthrie, Okla., in October, Jason Heck tried to
kill a millipede with a shot from his .22-caliber rifle, but the bullet
ricocheted off a rock near the hole and hit pal Antonio Martinez in the
head, fracturing his skull.
In Elyria, Ohio, in October, Martyn Eskins, attempting to clean out
cobwebs in his basement, declined to use a broom in favor of a propane
torch and caused a fire that burned the first and second floors of his
Paul Stiller, 47, was hospitalized in Andover Township, N.J., in
September, and his wife Bonnie was also injured, by a quarter-stick of
dynamite that blew up in their car. While driving around at 2 a.m., the
bored couple lit the dynamite and tried to toss it out the window to see
what would happen, but they apparently failed to notice that the window