2003 Darwin Awards

    Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it.

Number 10.  Shooting Blanks 

(11 March 2003, Spain)  Early one morning, police received a call warning that three robbers had invaded the bar of a Madrid brothel.  The police dispatched several units, and confirmed that the call was true.  Officers surrounded the building, and used a bullhorn to coax the offenders from the premises.

    The robbers, understandably frightened, found themselves in an untenable situation inside a building surrounded by dozens of policemen.  Their subsequent actions may have been influenced by the ready availability of alcohol.  Instead of surrendering, they decided to go out in a blaze of glory, and tried to escape while shooting at everything in sight.

    The policemen ducked, covered, and proceeded to shoot back at the running robbers.  Two were fatally injured, and the third was wounded in his right leg.

    Why was the gunfight over so quickly?  The three robbers were carrying REAL guns loaded with FAKE ammunition.  They were firing blanks, making enough sound and light to fool the police into shooting back, but not enough to actually help them escape.

Number 9.  Master Welder

(February 2003, Australia)  I heard this on radio and happened to pass the house the next day.  A homeowner was doing some welding on the roof of his house at Port Macquarie in NSW.  He had problems with his oxy tanks slipping, so he decided to tack weld them to the roofing iron.  That was the last thing he ever did. When I passed the house the next day, there wasn't much left of the roof on that side of the house.

Darwin asks, "Can you confirm this account?"

Number 8.  Tree Hard, Head Empty

(17 February 2003, New York)  A 25-year-old man, long accustomed to annoying neighbors by snowmobiling at high speeds through sleeping streets, finally received his comeuppance -- and in the process, a Darwinian nomination -- when he drove headfirst into a tree.

    It is not only his reckless speeding through a nighttime residential area that makes him eligible, nor is it merely because he was driving an unregistered, uninsured snowmobile without a helmet while drunk.  Although these spectacularly stupid ideas were ultimately responsible for his demise, there is yet another relevant aspect to report.

    Brian "The Brain" Sabinsky was a fireman, a member of the same company dispatched to peel him off the tree, the same organization that preaches snowmobile safety; responds to other gruesome, drunken, helmet-free snowmobile "accidents" every year; and the very same company that posts an illuminated "helmet safety" notice 700 feet from his own home.

    Clearly, while others have been as foolish as Brian in their choice of recreational activities, few have been so uniquely aware of the possible repercussions prior to making that choice!

Number 7.  Sharp Landing

(February 2003, East Timor)  A man was found lying facedown, covered in mud and blood, the apparent the victim of a street crime in Dili, the capital of East Timor.  It was not until a post mortem examination was conducted that U.N. police were able to reconstruct his last moments.  This up-and-coming young man decided that it was cool to shove his weapons, two long knives, down the waistband of his trousers.  Unsheathed.  The hapless fellow jumped over a small fence and landed in a large puddle of mud.  He slipped, which sent the blade of his "trouser knife" into his leg, severing his femoral artery.  He bled to death before he could stagger ten feet from the puddle.

Number 6.  "Pancake" Thief

(January 2003, India)  Regarding accidental deaths during the construction of a subway in New Delhi, the New York Times wrote, "One of those killed was an unlucky thief who tried to steal braces holding up a concrete slab; it fell and killed him."

Number 5.  Jack Up

(9 April 2003, New Zealand)  Phil needed to make repairs to the underside of his car.  But when he jacked it up, there wasn't enough room for him to work.  So he removed the car's battery, placed the jack on top of it, and set to work again, this time with plenty of elbow-room.

    Unfortunately for Phil, car batteries are not designed to carry much weight.  The battery collapsed and the jack toppled, trapping him beneath the car.  Unable to breathe due to the weight on his chest, he quickly expired in a pool of battery acid.

    This incident is illuminated by two additional facts:  First, Phil's occupation was Accident Prevention Officer at a large food processing plant.  And second, ten years previous, he had been working under a car when the jack collapsed, trapping him and breaking one of his legs.  Some people just don't learn -- even from their own mistakes.

Number 4.  Second Time's the Charm

(16 March 2003, Michigan)  Ignoring Coast Guard warnings, David Manley ventured onto the icy surface of Saginaw Bay with his pickup truck one chilly morning.   Predictably, the vehicle broke through the ice, but the 41-year-old managed to avert tragedy and escape from the sinking truck.  He reached the shore wet and cold, but alive.

    Despite his traumatic experience, and despite a day of sunshine and warm temperatures in the 60s, David returned to Saginaw Bay late the following night.  This time he was driving an all-terrain vehicle, and accompanied by a friend.  Surprise! The ATV also plunged through the ice.

    His companion survived, but David had used up his luck.  His body was recovered by the Coast Guard southwest of the Channel Islands.  An autopsy was scheduled to determine whether anything besides a desire to win a Darwin Award was a factor in his demise.

Number 3. Slaughterhouse Robbery

(12 February 2003)  Three men wielding knives tried to rob a slaughterhouse.  But when it comes to hand to hand combat with sharp blades, butchers working in a slaughterhouse are more than a match for your average thief.  They stabbed two of the intruders to death.  The third man escaped from the angry butchers and fled in his car.

    Police soon spotted him, and after a brief car chase, the would-be thief pulled over and leapt from his vehicle. But instead of fleeing into the underbrush, he tried to dodge heavy traffic and escape across the highway.  Perhaps he thought that threatening butchers with knives was not a sufficient demonstration of his intelligence.

    Within seconds, the natural justice system meted out his punishment in the form of a large truck, which struck and killed him.

Number 2.  Love Struck

"Why don't we do it in the road?" -Beatles

(3 March 2002, Sheffield, England)  As Kim Fontana, 32, and Paul Cowley, 40, left the pub, they noticed that a streetlight was burned out, creating an attractive pool of darkness on the road.  Unable to rein in their passion, they began to canoodle on the asphalt outside the pub.

    Witnesses said the couple was lying right on the white line, kissing and cuddling.  The passionate pair were warned of the danger of their chosen position not once, not twice, but three times -- by a car driver, a bus driver, and a pedestrian.

    An off-duty paramedic honked three times and shouted, "You want to get up, or otherwise you’ll be run over."  The man simply said "Cheers, mate," and the paramedic heard a female voice laughing.  A bus driver swerved to avoid them, and drove past with wheels on the curb.  A concerned pedestrian shouted to warn them that another bus was headed their way.

    Despite these disruptions, Kim and Paul continued, oblivious to the approach of a small, single-decker Nipper bus.  The bus driver mistook the undulating shape for a bag of rubbish in the poorly lit street, and was unable to stop in time.  There was a dull thud...

    Kim and Paul were struck and killed at midnight.  Paramedics found Kim lying on her back with her jumper pulled up, and Paul between her legs with his trousers pulled down.

    The only downside to this timely removal of lunacy from the gene pool is the fate of the bus driver.  Despite the couple's own actions, and a police investigator's statement that "one can expect a pedestrian walking or running in the road, but to expect a driver to anticipate a pedestrian lying in the road is out of the ordinary" -- a judge felt that "his driving fell below the standard one would reasonably expect of a prudent, competent driver."

    The bus driver was fined for careless driving and his license was revoked for six months.  Fortunately, his employers consider him an excellent employee, and plan to give him other duties for six months. Relatives of the victims said they were glad the driver had kept his job.

"Does it really matter what these affectionate
people do, so long as they don't do it in the street
and frighten the horses?" -Mrs. Patrick Campbell

and finally, the Number 1 2002 Darwin Award Winner . . .

Number 1.  Workin' at the Car Wash

(29 January 2003, Brazil)  At work, Manoel Messias Batista Coelho was responsible for cleaning out the storage tanks of gasoline tanker trucks.  He had been employed in that capacity for two months when he ran afoul of fuel.  The 35-year-old began to fill a tanker with water, a standard safety procedure that forces flammable vapor out of the container.  He returned an hour later to check whether the water level was high enough to proceed. But he had trouble deciding, because it was so DARK inside the tanker.  A resourceful employee, Manoel forgot the very reason why he was filling the tank with water when he lit a cigarette lighter to shed some light on the situation.  His little test successfully determined that the water level was NOT yet high enough for safety.  The vapor explosion launched him through the air, and he landed in the company parking lot 100 meters away.   Manoel suffered severe burns, blunt force trauma, and an injury to the head that exposed his brain.  Our witless car washer had learned his terminal lesson in safety by the time the firemen arrived.

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