The 2006 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.

Hammer of Doom

(August 2006, Brazil) August brings us a winner from Brazil, who tried to disassemble a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) by driving back and forth over it with a car. This technique was ineffective, so he escalated to pounding the RPG with a sledgehammer. The second try worked--in a sense. The explosion proved fatal to one man, six cars, and the repair shop wherein the efforts took place.

14 more RPG grenades were found in a car parked nearby. Police believe the ammunition was being scavenged to sell as scrap metal. If it wasn't scrap then, it certainly is now!

Stubbed Out

(17 April 2006, England) There's always someone who thinks good advice doesn't apply to him. For example, if a doctor advises that the one thing you must not do is go near a flame, as you are going to be covered with a flammable material, most people would take this advice onboard, and not strike a match until the flammable material has been removed.

However, Phillip, 60, knew better than his doctor. Philip was in the hospital to treat a skin disease, said treatment consisting of being smeared in paraffin-based cream. Philip was warned that the cream would ignite, so he definitely should NOT smoke. But he just couldn't live without that cigarette."

Smoking was not permitted anywhere on the ward, but Phillip took this setback in stride, and sneaked out onto a fire escape. Once he was hidden, he lit up... inhaled... and peace descended as he got his nicotine fix. Things went downhill only after he finished his cigarette, at the moment he ground out the butt with his heel.

The paraffin cream had been absorbed by his clothing. As his heel touched the butt, fumes from his pajamas ignited. The resulting inferno "cremated" his skin condition, and left first-degree burns on much of his body. Despite excellent treatment, he died in intensive care.

Using the Darwin checklist:

1.Reproduction -- if he has children, he's not having more.

2.Excellence -- this one I'll remember!

3.Self-Selection -- he was warned paraffin & flames don't mix.

4.Maturity -- At 60 I guess he was old enough.

5.Veracity -- Major UK news carriers covered the story.

This ticks all the boxes, and though I feel sorry for the family, his death acts as a warning to others. If a doctor tells you not to smoke, there's a very good reason.

A Rolling Stone...

(2006, Vietnam) ...isn't the only thing that collects no moss. Three men scavenging for scrap metal found an unexploded 500-pound bomb perched atop a hill, and decided to retrieve it with a little help from Sir Isaac Newton's laws. As they attempted to roll the bomb down the hillside, it detonated, leaving a four-meter crater, and sending all three entrepreneurs to a face-to-face meeting with their maker.

Score One For Goliath

(September 2006, Florida) A fearsome mythical giant was felled by a humble slingshot. But a modern speargun vs. an underwater leviathan is another tale altogether, as a Florida man discovered.

Outlawed in 1990, hunting Goliath-sized groupers remains surprisingly popular. These fish can weigh hundreds of pounds, yet there are underwater hunters who choose to tether themselves to such muscular sea creatures. However unlikely a pursuit, the poaching of groupers by divers and snorkelers continues, in defiance of both the law and common sense.

Of this elite group, our Darwin Award winner distinguished himself yet further by disregarding one essential spearfishing precaution. By embarking on this hunt without a knife to cut himself loose, the "fit and experienced snorkeler" was guaranteeing that his next attack on a giant grouper would be his last.

Why anyone thinks it's a good idea to tether yourself to a fish twice your size, I don't know. Some time later, the body of the spearfisher was found pinned to the coral, 17 feet underwater. Three coils of line were wrapped around his wrist, and one very dead grouper was impaled at the other end of the line.

In those final hours, the tables were turned, and the fish was given an opportunity to reflect on the experience of "catching a person."

Copper Kite

(19 March 2006, Belize) Benjamin Franklin reputedly flew his kite in a lightning storm, going on to discover that lightning = electricity. However, certain precautions must be taken to avoid, as Ben Franklin did, sudden electrocution.

Kennon, 26, replicated the conditions of Ben Franklin's experiment--sans safety precautions. He was flying a kite, with a short string that he had extended with a length of thin copper wire.

The copper made contact with a high tension line, sending a bolt of artificial lightning down the wire. As Kennon was an electrician, Kennon's father told listeners, his son "should have known better."

Kennon is survived by his parents, six sisters, and five brothers.

High On Life (and Death)

(3 June 2006, Lutz, Florida) Take a deep breath... Two more candidates have thrown themselves into the running for a Darwin Award. The feet of Jason and Sara, both 21, were found protruding from a huge, deflated helium advertising balloon. The medical examiner told family members that helium inhalation was a factor in their deaths.

When one breathes helium, the lack of oxygen in the bloodstream causes a rapid loss of consciousness. Some euthanasia experts advocate the use of helium to painlessly end one's life.

Jason was a college student, and Sara attended community college, but apparently their education had glossed over the importance of oxygen. The pair pulled down the 8' balloon, and climbed inside. Their last words consisted of high-pitched, incoherent giggling as they slowly passed out and passed into the hereafter.

Sheriff's deputies said the two were not victims of foul play, and no drugs or alcohol were found. Sara's mother said, "She was mischievous, to be honest. She liked fun, and it cost her."

Faith as a Flotation Device

(August 2006, Libreville, Gabon) In August, a congregation's 35-year old pastor insisted one could literally walk on water, if only one had enough faith. Big and bold was his speech. He extolled the heavenly power possessed by a faithful man with such force that he may well have convinced himself.

Whether or not he believed in his heart, his sermons left room for only shame should he leave his own faith untested. Thus, the pastor set out to walk across a major estuary, the path of a 20-minute ferry ride. But the man could not swim.

Lacking the miraculous powers of David Copperfield, let alone holy Jesus Christ, this ill-fated cleric found only a Darwin Award at the end of his final path.

Star Wars LightSabres

The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who, uh, remove themselves from it...

Like two people who imitated Luke vs. Darth Vader, and made light sabres from fluorescent light tubes. That's right, the 17 and 20 opened up fluorescent lights, poured gasoline into the tubes... and lit them. A Star Wars sized explosion was not far behind.  One died, the other survived to 'fess up to their creative, but stupid, reenactment.

Darwin says: "Some moderators say 17 is too young, but I disagree. This one passes the "minors rule" because 17 is legal driving age. Old enough to pump gas is old enough to know not to light it."