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,
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
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
Within seconds, the natural justice system meted out
his punishment in the form of a large truck, which struck and killed
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
rein in their passion, they began to canoodle on the asphalt outside
Witnesses said the couple was lying right on the
kissing and cuddling. The passionate pair were warned of the
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
mate," and the paramedic heard a female voice laughing. A bus
swerved to avoid them, and drove past with wheels on the curb. A
concerned pedestrian shouted to warn them that another bus was headed
Despite these disruptions, Kim and Paul continued,
oblivious to the
approach of a small, single-decker Nipper bus. The bus driver
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
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
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
"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
ran afoul of fuel. The 35-year-old began to fill a tanker with
a standard safety procedure that forces flammable vapor out of the
container. He returned an hour later to check whether the water
was high enough to proceed. But he had trouble deciding, because it was
so DARK inside the tanker. A resourceful employee, Manoel forgot
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
successfully determined that the water level was NOT yet high enough
for safety. The vapor explosion launched him through the air, and
landed in the company parking lot 100 meters away. Manoel
severe burns, blunt force trauma, and an injury to the head that
exposed his brain. Our witless car washer had learned his
lesson in safety by the time the firemen arrived.
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