For those of you not familiar with the Darwin Awards, they commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.
Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival.
The 1995 winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
In 1996 the winner was the guy who shot himself while trying to smash his girlfriend's windshield with the butt of his shotgun.
And now, Larry Walters of Los Angeles - one of the few Darwin winners to survive his award winning accomplishment.
Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. When he graduated from high school, he joined the Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, poor eyesight disqualified him. When he was finally discharged, he had to satisfy himself with watching jets fly over his backyard.
One day, Larry had a bright idea. He decided to fly. He went to the local Army-Navy surplus store and purchased 45weather balloons and several tanks of helium. The weather balloons, when fully inflated, would measure more than four feet across.
Back home, Larry securely strapped the balloons to his sturdy lawn chair. He anchored the chair to the bumper of his jeep and inflated the balloons with the helium. He climbed on for a test while it was still only a few feet above the ground.
Satisfied it would work, Larry packed several sandwiches and a six-pack of Miller Lite, loaded his pellet gun -- figuring he could pop a few balloons when it was time to descend -- and went back to the floating lawn chair. He tied himself in along with his pellet gun and provisions. Larry's plan was to lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard after severing the anchor and in a few hours come back down.
Things didn't quite work out that way.
When he cut the cord anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30 or so feet. Instead he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon. He didn't level off at 30 feet, nor did he level off at 100 feet. After climbing and climbing, he levelled off at 11,000 feet. At that height 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, for more than 14 hours.
Then he really got in trouble.
He found himself drifting into the the primary approach corridor of Los Angeles International Airport.
A United pilot first spotted Larry. He radioed the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport.
LAX emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter was dispatched to investigate.
LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea with the helicopter in hot pursuit. Several miles out, the heli-copter caught up with Larry. Once the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they attempted to close in for a rescue but the draft from the blades would push Larry away whenever they neared.
Finally, the helicopter ascended to a position several hundred feet above Larry and lowered a rescue line. Larry snagged the line and was hauled back to shore. The difficult maneuver was flawlessly executed by the helicopter crew.
As soon as Larry was hauled to earth, he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD for violating LAX airspace. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked why he had done it. Larry stopped, turned and replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around."
Another nominee for the 1997 Darwin Award.
There are many transmission lines that criss-cross Connecticut. These are held up by Transmission Towers of various constructions. Those most commonly installed near urban areas are called "Metal Ornamental Towers"(supposedly prettier than wood towers).
Sometimes adventurous folks climb the towers in order to enjoy the view and the night air. Most stay away from the wires, and when they get bored, come back down.
Apparently, a man who was forlorn after a recent spat with his girlfriend needed some fresh air to clear his head and decided to climb a tower. He stopped for a 6 pack to help clear his thoughts, went to a tower south of Hartford, next to I-91, and climbed it.
Public Service employees later pieced the story together. The man sat there 60 feet above the highway, drank his beer and consoled his bruised ego. After 5 beers, he needed to do what people often need to do after 5 beers. It being such a long hike down, he unzipped and did his business right there off the tower.
Electricity is a funny thing. One doesn't need to touch a wire in order to get shocked. Depending on conditions, 115,000 volt lines, like those supported by the tower, could shock a person as far away as 6 feet.
When the man "whizzed" near the conductor (wire), the power arced to his "stream" (urine is an excellent conductor of electricity), traveled up to his private parts, and blew him off the tower.
The guys at the power company noted a momentary outage on this line and sent repairmen to see if there was any damage. When they got to the scene of the accident, they found a very dead person, his fly down, what was left of his private parts smoking, and a single beer left on top of the tower.
The Darwin Award Nominees for 1998 are:
- LOS ANGELES, CA. Ani Saduki, 33, and his brother decided to remove a bee's nest from a shed on their property with the aid of a pineapple (A pineapple is an illegal firecracker which is the explosive equivalent of one-half stickof dynamite.)
They ignited the fuse and retreated to watch from inside their home, behind a window some 10 feet away from the hive/shed. The concussion of the explosion shattered the window inwards, seriously lacerating Ani. Deciding Mr. Saduki needed stitches, the brothers headed out to go to a nearby hospital. While walking towards their car, Ani was stung three times by the surviving bees. Unbeknownst to either brother, Ani was allergic to bee venom, and died of Suffocation enroute to the hospital.
- Derrick L. Richards, 28, was charged in April in Minneapolis with third-degree murder in the death of his beloved cousin, Kenneth E.Richards. According to police, Derrick suggested a game of Russian Roulette and put a semi-automatic pistol (instead of the more traditional revolver) to Ken's head and fired.
- PHILLIPSBURG, NJ. An unidentified 29 year old male choked to death on a sequined pastie he had orally removed from an exotic dancer at a local establishment. "I didn't think he was going to eat it," the dancer identified only as "Ginger" said, adding "He was really drunk."
- 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.
- MOSCOW, Russia - A drunk security man asked a colleague at the Moscow bank they were guarding to stab his bulletproof vest to see if it would protect him against a knife attack. It didn't, and the 25-year-old guard died of a heart wound. (It's good to see the Russians getting into the spirit of the Darwin Awards.)
AND THE 1998 DARWIN AWARD WINNER IS ...
THOMPSON, MANITOBA, CANADA.
Telephone relay company night watchman Edward Baker, 31, was killed early Christmas morning by excessive microwave radiation exposure. He was apparently attempting to keep warm next to a telecommunications feed horn. Baker had been suspended on a safety violation once last year, according to Northern Manitoba Signal Relay spokesperson Tanya Cooke. She noted that Baker's earlier infraction was for defeating a safety shut-off switch and entering a restricted maintenance catwalk in order to stand in front of the microwave dish. He had told coworkers that it was the only way he could stay warm during his twelve-hour shift at the station, where winter temperatures often dip to forty below zero.
Microwaves can heat water molecules within human tissue in the same way that they heat food in microwave ovens. For his Christmas shift, Baker reportedly brought a twelve pack of beer and a plastic lawn chair, which he positioned directly in line with the strongest microwave beam. Baker had not been told about a tenfold boost in microwave power planned that night to handle the anticipated increase in holiday long-distance calling traffic.
Baker's body was discovered by the daytime watchman, John Burns, who was greeted by an odor he mistook for a Christmas roast, he thought Baker must have prepared as a surprise. Burns also reported to NMSR company officials that Baker's unfinished beers had exploded.