The 2005 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.

Chimney-Cleaning Grenade

(13 January 2005, Croatia) One fateful afternoon, 55-year-old Marko retreated to his semi-detached workshop to make himself a tool for chimney cleaning. The chimney was too high for a simple broom to work, but if he could attach a brush to a chain and then weigh it down with something, that would do the trick.  But what could he use as a weight?

He happened to have the perfect object. It was heavy, yet compact. And best of all, it was made of metal, so he could weld it to the chain. He must have somehow overlooked the fact that it was also a hand grenade and was filled with explosive material.

Marko turned on his welding apparatus and began to create an arc between the chain and the grenade. As the metal heated up, the grenade exploded. The force of the explosion killed poor Marko instantly, blasting shrapnel through the walls of the shed and shattering the windshield of a Mercedes parked outside. Marko's chimney was untouched, however.

Reader Comments:

"That fellow made an 'ash' of himself."

"Home improvement gone terribly wrong."

"Soot-black humour."

"Sounds like he blew it!"

"A cautionary tale for Santa."

"Chim-chimeny, chim-chimeny, chim-chim-Kaboom!"

Freeway Dangler

(31 May 2005, Seattle, Washington) Strength and endurance are two of the most important characteristics that can be passed on to improve the species, so physical challenges between males are frequent. In this case, two drinking buddies found themselves on an overpass 40 feet above a busy freeway in downtown Seattle at 2:45 a.m. It turned out to be the perfect place to determine who had more strength and endurance. Whoever could dangle from the overpass the longest would win!

Unfortunately, the winner was too tired from his victory to climb back up, despite help from his 31-year-old friend. The unidentified champion fell smack into the front of a semi-truck barreling down the highway at 60 mph and bounced onto the pavement, where he was hit by a car. The car did not stop. Authorities did not identify the winner of the competition.

Reader Comments:

"Remember this when you are doing your pull-ups!"

"Avoid that tired, run-down feeling."

"Feats of strength!"

"Plug Me In"

(7 March 2005, Vietnam) Nguyen, 21, had been drinking with friends in Hanoi, when he pulled out an old detonator he had found. It was about six centimeters long and eight centimeters in diameter, with two wires hanging out. Because it was old and rusty, Nguyen 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.

Turns out Nyugen was wrong!

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

Reader Comments:

"Those were not very close friends!"

"I guess he ate his words."

Failed Frame-Up

(19 March 2005, Michigan) "Unusual" and "complicated" is how the Missaukee County sheriff described the mysterious death of 19-year-old Christopher.

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 the 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: Christopher would stab himself and blame the neighbor!

A witness saw Christopher enter the bathroom as he called 911. He calmly informed the dispatcher that his neighbor had stabbed him. Witnesses said he looked fine when he emerged from the bathroom, but a moment later gouts of blood spewed from his chest. Suddenly he began screaming begging for help. The dispatcher heard a woman shout, "Why did you do this?" He collapsed at the door of his apartment.

Deputies arrived quickly, but Christopher had already bled to death from self-inflicted stab wounds to his chest. An autopsy determined that he had stabbed himself in the chest twice. The first wound apparently didn't look dangerous enough, so he tried again. The second time, the knife plunged into his left ventricle. This wound was plenty dangerous: he had only two minutes to live.

Christopher died in vain. His deathbed accusation of his neighbor failed, as a witness confirmed that the neighbor was not in the apartment. All Christopher got for revenge was an accidental death sentence.

Elephant Tail

(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. They're so powerful that in Southeast Asia, males are used to haul massive tree trunks with their three-foot tusks, work performed by heavy equipment in other countries.

It's also no secret that teasing an animal makes it mad. Teasing a animal that can carry a tree with its 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. Prawat died on the way to the hospital. The elephant got his treat.

Reader Comments:

"Elephants have feelings, too."

"Chalk one up for the animal lovers."

"Dont' tease the elephants!" -Mom

"Elephant Tail"

Surprise Attack Surprise

(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.

And this, kiddies, is why we don't play with knives or guns. Ever. Even if we are trained professionals, and especially if our target is a trained professional.

Reader Comments:

"I wonder if the enlisted guy got a Combat Action ribbon?!"

"No one brings knives to Paintball this weekend!!!"

"What's the surprise? He was a SECOND looey."

"That's what he gets for bringing a knife to a gun fight!"

What I Can Still Do

(16 January 2005, Florida) Two North Fort Myers residents, 23-year-old Molly and her husband, had rented a room in a local motel for some unspecified activity, perhaps involving perpetuation of the species. As Molly entered the second-floor room, she went straight for the lanai, which overlooked a concrete patio. Most guests would have seen the railing on the edge of the lanai as a safety feature, but for Molly it brought to mind fond memories of her youthful gymnastic abilities.

Molly called out to Todd, "Watch to see what I can still do." These would be her last words. She did a flip onto the railing for a handstand, just the way she used to do, then toppled over the other side, slamming into the patio 15 feet below. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Reader Comments:

"Molly, Molly, Molly." "She was just dying to impress him! LOL"

"Agility does NOT equal intelligence (apparently.)"

"Bet that wasn't the type of action he was looking for..."

Wales Wins

(8 February 2005, Caerphilly, Wales) "If Wales wins, I'll cut my balls off," Geoff told his mates at a social club while watching the rugby match between England and its arch-rival. His friends thought the 26-year-old was joking, but after Wales' 11-9 victory over England, he went home, castrated himself with a knife, and walked the length of two rugby fields back to the bar to show his shocked friends the evidence.

It was Wales' first home win over England in 12 years. Geoff was taken to a hospital where he remained "in a seriously ill condition."

Note: Police reported that Geoff had a history of mental problems, so he may not have been of sound mind at the time. If so, this is regarded as a disqualification for a Darwin Award.

Reader Comments:

"No one should be this devoted to his team!"

"They take their sport seriously in Wales!"

"A tad drastic."

"I told you that you Taffs had strange rituals!"

"A little Welsh sport to "lighten" your load...LITERALLY!"

"Never bet while you are pissed!!"

"How pathetic do you have to be to get disqualified for a Darwin?"

Reader Dale says, "He used a (blunt) pair of wire cutters, or so it was reported in the British press. It apparently took him 10 mins to complete his task!!!"

Mining for Elephants

(15 February 2005, Rushinga, Zimbabwe) The elephants were trampling Christian's maize field, which he had 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 Zimbabwe-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. As he carried them home, the unstable mines detonated, killing Christian instantly.

Then total number of elephants injured? Zero.

Reader Comments:

"Swords into plowshares..."

"Not the best laid plan."

"An electric fence never occurred to him?"

"Elephants 1, Villagers 0. Human stupidity rules again."

"An example of karmic retribution."

"Wildlife Conservation Measures in Zimbabwe"

Rocketing to Glory

(7 February 2005, Malaysia) Fireworks are a longstanding lunar New Year's tradition among Malaysia's large Chinese minority, and continue to be widely used to celebrate, despite a ban on their sale and use.

Wan, a 29-year-old excavator operator, spent the evening watching people set off fireworks outside a suburban Kuala Lumpur nightclub. These were no mere firecrackers. They were rockets that shot as high as a ten-story building before exploding.

His curiosity piqued, Wan bent over one of the launching tubes for a closer look, wondering how these powerful rockets worked. He was peering down the tube when it fired, sending him flying ten meters. He died instantly from severe head injuries, according to a senior police official.

Reader Comments:

"Can you say "Fire in the Hole!"? I knew that you could!"

The Nuisance of Seatbelts

(5 January 2005, Nebraska) In September of his senior year at the University of Nebraska, 21-year-old Derek wrote an impassioned declaration of independence from seatbelts for his college newspaper. Although "intrusive and ridiculous" seatbelt laws saved 6100 lives a year, according to statistics from the U.S. Congress, Derek concluded with the statement, "If I want to be the jerk that flirts with death, I should be able to do that."

Derek "was a bright young boy, a 4.0" majoring in five subjects and planning to attend law school. He was also smart enough to tutor friends in subjects he didn't even take. But good grades don't equate with common sense.

Derek was returning from a holiday in San Antonio, Texas. The driver of the Ford Explorer and his front seat passenger both wore seatbelts. Only Derek was willing to buck the system, sitting without a seatbelt in the back seat because, in the words of his newspaper column, he belonged to the "die-hard group of non-wearers out there who simply do not wish to buckle up, no matter what the government does."

When the SUV hit a patch of ice, slid off US 80 and rolled several times, Derek, in an involuntary display of his freedom, was thrown from the vehicle. He died at the scene. The other occupants of the SUV, slaves to the seatbelt, survived with minor injuries.

Alcohol was not involved in the accident.

Tide Waits for No Man

(23 May 2005, Texas) After surf-fishing on Crystal Beach, John was fatigued, but unwilling to call it a night. The full moon threatened to disturbed his nap, so John curled up for forty winks in the darkest place available: underneath his truck, which was parked on the beach.

The next morning, a pickup truck was reported abandoned in the surf off Crystal Beach. A tow truck driver was called in, and had barely moved the pickup a foot, when he found the body of a 37-year-old man embedded in the sand beneath it.

It turned out that the truck was not abandoned, after all. As John slept, time passed and the tide rolled back in. The wet sand shifted beneath the truck's weight, and John was trapped beneath it, unable to escape. The beach became his final resting place.

Reader Debra says, "Crystal Beach is a great place to go on a summer day with a few ice cold beers, to watch the folks with out-of-state license plates fly through the surf, fishtailing and throwing salt-water into the engine compartment. Even funnier is when they park, and watch the tide come in, shifting the sands, burying their axles...!"

Off-Road Driving

(6 January 2005, Johannesburg, South Africa)  Massive thunderstorms had turned the Braamfontein Spruit into a raging river. It was a little past midnight when police warned Barbara, 33, that a flash flood was inundating the bridge ahead. They urged her not to cross. But Barbara was driving a BMW X3, an off-road vehicle with xDrive all-wheel-drive.

Brochures assured her that the luxury SUV with Sensatec upholstery and an 8-speaker stereo system had "virtually unlimited agility." So Barbara laughed off the police advice, and continued towards the bridge. xDrive all-wheel drive lost its grip as the floodwaters swept her BMW X3 off the bridge. Her body was found later inside the vehicle over a mile down the river.

Death Valley Daze

(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 the deceptively dry appearance of its 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 crust.

Robert was miles from nowhere, surrounded by the bleached skulls of other 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 location where someone was more likely to pass.

Luck was with him! As he was shaking the last drop of water from his bottle, help arrived in the form of 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 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.

Robert had cheated death once, but 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 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.

Reader Comments:

"The desert does strange things to people."

"Gotta love the tree-huggers, and I can say that cause I am one."

All Wound Up

(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.

Reader Comments:

"We have a Wiener!"

Heck on Wheels

(17 April 2005, Syracuse, Indiana) Late one night, 26-year-old Joseph was blazing down the road in the Chain O'Lakes district on his Yamaha moped. When he saw flashing lights in his rear-view mirror, well... with the wind whistling through his ears, he apparently concluded that his moped could outrun a police cruiser. This hard-boiled Heck's Angels wannabe revved his engine and roared off.

The speedometer needle flashed past 10--20--30mph, and within a minute, it was in 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!

The two-stroke engine was buzzing like a hummingbird from the strain of the chase. Perhaps he was thinking, "You'll never take me alive, copper!" as he sped through the intersection. Whatever his last thoughts were, Joseph lost control of his would-be road rocket, crashed into a tree, and died instantly.

Reader Comments:

"Whatever this guy was smoking, I want some!"

"You'll never take me alive copper!"

"Didn't you and Esh try this in Stillwater once, Fish?" "As I read this, I see brother John riding down 202 to ConVal on that stupid moped. "