For those who don’t know, this award is an annual honor given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way; thus, eliminating his/her genetic material from the gene pool.
For those of you who do know about the award, you may recall last year’s Darwin Award winner: the man who found out moments before making a 300 MPH dent in an Arizona cliff that the JATO (Jet Assist Take-Off) unit he’d strapped to his car was not equipped with an off switch. 1995’s winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which fell on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
And now, I am pleased to present 1997’s illustrious winners of the Darwin Award, John Pernicky and Sal Hawkins. Yes, for the first time, it was a tie!
John Pernicky and friend Sal Hawkins, of the great state of Washington, decided to attend a local Metallica concert at the Amphitheater at George, Washington. Having no tickets (but 18 beers among them) they sat in the parking lot, and after finishing the beer, decided that it would be easy enough to hop over the nine-foot high fence and sneak into the show.
The two friends pulled their pickup truck over to the fence and the plan assist his friend over the fence. Unfortunately for John, there was a 30 foot drop on the other side of the fence. Having heaved himself over, he found himself crashing through a tree. His fall was abruptly halted by a large branch which snagged him by his shorts.
Dangling from the tree, with one arm broken, John looked down and saw a group of bushes below him. Figuring the bushes would break his fall, John removed his pocket knife and proceeded to cut away his shorts to free himself from the tree. When finally free, John crashed below into Holly bushes. The sharp leaves scratched his entire body and now being without his shorts, he was the unwilling victim of a holly branch penetrating his rectal cavity.
To make matters worse, his pocket knife proceeded to fall with him and landed three inches into his left thigh. Seeing his friend in considerable pain and agony, Sal decided to throw him a rope and pull him to safety.
However, weighing about 100 pounds less, he decided the best course of action would be to tie the rope to the pickup truck. This is when things went from bad to worse.
In his drunken state, Sal put the truck into the wrong gear, pressed on the gas, and crashed through the fence, landing on, and killing, his friend. Sal was thrown from the truck, suffered massive internal injuries, and also died at the scene.
Police arrived to find a pickup truck with its driver thrown 100 feet from the vehicle and, upon moving the truck, a half naked man with numerous scratches, a holly stick up his rectum, a knife in his thigh, and a pair of shorts dangling from the tree branches 25 feet in the air.
Congratulations John and Sal!!!
And now, the runners-up:
Runner-Up #1 – San Jose Mercury News:
An unidentified man, using a shotgun like a club to break a former girlfriend’s windshield, accidentally shot himself to death when the gun discharged, blowing a hole in his gut.
Runner-Up #2 – Kalamazoo Gazette:
James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Mich., was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police described as a “farm-type truck.” Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns’ clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns “wrapped in the drive shaft.”
Runner-Up #3 – Reuters, Mississauga, Ontario:
A man cleaning a bird feeder on his balcony of his condominium apartment in this Toronto suburb slipped and fell 23 stories to his death, police said Monday. Stefan Macko, 55, was standing on a wheeled chair Sunday when the accident occurred, said Inspector D’Arcy Honer of the Peel regional police. “It appears the chair moved and he went over the balcony,” Honer said. “It’s one of those freak accidents. No foul play is suspected.”
Runner-Up #4 – Hickory Daily Record:
Ken Charles Barger, 47, accidentally shot himself to death in December in Newton, N.C., when, awakening to the sound of a ringing telephone beside his bed, he reached for the phone but grabbed instead a Smith & Wesson .38 Special, which discharged when he drew it to his ear.
Runner-Up #5 – UPI, Toronto:
Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the building’s windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had conducted demonstrations of window strength according to police reports. Peter Lauwers, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was “one of the best and brightest” members of the 200-man association.
Runners-Up #6 – AP, Cairo, Egypt:
Six people drowned Monday while trying to rescue a chicken that had fallen into a well in southern Egypt. An 18-year-old farmer was the first to descend into the 60-foot well. He drowned, apparently after an undercurrent in the water pulled him down, police said. His sister and two brothers, none of whom could swim well, went in one-by-one to help him, but also drowned. Two elderly farmers then came to help, but they apparently were pulled by the same undercurrent. The bodies of the six were later pulled out of the well in the village of Nazlat Imara, 240 miles south of Cairo. The chicken was also pulled out. It survived.
Runner-Up #7 – Bloomburg News Service:
A terrible diet and room with no ventilation are being blamed for the death of a man who was killed by his own gas. There was no mark on his body but autopsy showed large amounts of methane gas in his system. His diet had consisted primarily of beans and cabbage (and a couple of other things). It was just the right combination of foods. It appears that the man died in his sleep from breathing from the poisonous cloud that was hanging over his bed. Had he been outside or had his windows been opened, it wouldn’t have been fatal. But the man was shut up in his near airtight bedroom. He was “…a big man with a huge capacity for creating [this deadly gas].” Three of the rescuers got sick and one was hospitalized.
Runner-Up #9 – San Jose Mercury News:
A 24-year-old salesman from Hialeah, Fla., was killed near Lantana, Fla., in March when his car smashed into a pole in the median strip of Interstate 95 in the middle of the afternoon. Police said that the man was traveling at 80 MPH and, judging by the sales manual that was found open and clutched to his chest, had been busy reading.
Runner-Up #10 – The News of the Weird:
Michael Anderson Godwin made News of the Weird posthumously in 1989. He had spent several years awaiting South Carolina’s electric chair on a murder conviction before having his sentence reduced to life in prison. In March 1989, sitting on a metal toilet in his cell and attempting to fix his small TV set, he bit into a wire and was electrocuted. On Jan 1, 1997, Laurence Baker, also a convicted murderer once on death row, but later serving a life sentence at the state prison in Pittsburgh, Pa., was electrocuted by his homemade earphones as he watched his small TV while sitting on his metal toilet.
Runner-Up #11 – The Indianapolis Star:
In Dunkirk, Indiana, a Jay County man using a cigarette lighter to check the barrel of a muzzle loader was killed Monday night when the weapon discharged in his face, sheriff’s investigators said. Gregory David Pryor, 19, died in his parents’ rural Dunkirk home about 11:30 p.m. Investigators said Pryor was cleaning a .54-caliber muzzleloader that had not been firing properly. He was using the lighter to look into the barrel when the gunpowder ignited.
Runner-Up #12 – AP, Mammoth Lakes:
A San Anselmo man died yesterday when he hit a lift tower at the Mammoth Mountain ski area while riding down the slope on a foam pad, authorities said. Matthew David Hubal, 22, was pronounced dead at Centinela Mammoth Hospital. The accident occurred about 3 a.m., the Mono County Sheriff’s Department said. Hubal and his friends apparently had hiked up a ski run called Stump Alley and undid some yellow foam protectors from the lift towers, said Lieutenant Mike Donnelly of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department. The pads are used to protect skiers who might hit the towers. The group apparently used the pads to slide down the ski slope and Hubal crashed into a tower. [Editor’s note: After this initial story was printed, it was determined by investigators that the tower he hit was the one from which HE had removed the pad.]
Runner-Up #13 – Reuters, Warsaw, Poland:
A poacher electrocuting fish in a lake in central Poland fell into the water and suffered the same fate as his quarry, police said Thursday. The 24-year-old man was one of four who went fishing with a cable, one end of which they attached to a net and the other to a high-voltage electricity supply line, the PAP news agency quoted a police official in Wloclawek as saying. “For a while everything went according to the poachers’ plan and they had fish in their bags. But at a certain moment the man holding the net tripped and fell into the water,” the agency said. The other poachers tried in vain to revive him, it said.
Runner-Up #14 – AP, St. Louis, MO:
Robert Puelo, 32, was apparently being disorderly in a St. Louis market. When the clerk threatened to call police, Puelo grabbed a hot dog, shoved it in his mouth, and walked out without paying for it. Police found him unconscious in front of the store. Paramedics removed the six-inch wiener from his throat, where it had choked him to death.
Runner-Up #15 – Unknown:
Poacher Marino Malerba shot a stag standing above him on an aging rock. Mario was killed instantly when the stag fell off the rock and landed on him.
Runner-Up #16 – Associated Press, Kincaid, W. VA:
Blasting Cap Explodes in Man’s Mouth at Party. A man at a party popped a blasting cap into his mouth and bit down, triggering an explosion that blew off his lips, teeth and tongue, state police said Wednesday. Jerry Stromyer, 24, of Kincaid, bit the blasting cap as a prank during a party late Tuesday night, said Cpl. M.D. Payne. “Another man had it in an aquarium, hooked to a battery, and was trying to explode it,” Payne said. “It wouldn’t go off and this guy said, ‘I’ll show you how to set it off.’ I just can’t imagine anyone doing something like that,” Payne said.
AND FINALLY, Runner-Up #17 – Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
In December near Mineral Wells, Tex., three men who were attempting to steal copper wire off live electrical lines for resale were electrocuted. Copper wiring is a valuable scrap metal in Texas but is usually stolen from electric cables that are not being used.
Here are some people that may be future nominees/winners, but still haven’t made it to the “Big Leagues.”
UPI, Portland, OR:
[Mountain Men Initiations are Eye-Opening Experience.]
Doctors at Portland’s University Hospital said Wednesday an Oregon man shot through the skull by a hunting arrow is lucky to be alive, and will be released soon from the hospital. Tony Roberts, 25, lost his right eye last weekend during an initiation into a men’s rafting club, Mountain Men Anonymous, in Grants Pass, Ore. A friend tried to shoot a beer can off his head, but the arrow entered Roberts’ right eye. Doctors said, had the arrow gone 1 millimeter to the left, a major blood vessel would have cut and Roberts would have died instantly. Neurosurgeon Dr. Johnny Delashaw at the University Hospital in Portland said the arrow went through 8 to 10 inches of brain, with the tip protruding at the rear of his skill, yet somehow managed to miss all major blood vessels. Delashaw also said had Robert tried to pull the arrow out on his own he surely would have killed himself. Roberts admitted afterwards he and his friends had been drinking that afternoon. Said Roberts, “I feel so dumb about this.” No charges have been filed but the Josephine County district attorney’s office said the initiation stunt is under investigation.
The Calgary Sun Saturday, Vancouver (CP):
[Low Blow for Gunman.]
A man arguing over a love triangle accidentally shot himself in the groin, taking off his testicles and part of his penis. Police said the man was waving a .357 Magnum revolver around during the shouting match early yesterday. But when he stuffed it back in his pants the gun went off. Police were called to the hospital after the man in his 20s was brought in by friends. Charges are pending against the victim, who is expected to survive.
Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
[Two Local Men Injured in Freak Truck Accident; Cotton Patch, Ark.]
Two local men were seriously injured when their pick-up truck left the road and struck a tree near Cotton Patch on State Highway 38 early Monday morning. Woodruff County deputy Dovey Snyder reported the accident shortly after midnight Monday. Thurston Poole, 33, of Des Arc and Billy Ray Wallis, 38, of Little Rock are listed in serious condition at Baptist Medical Center. The accident occurred as the two men were returning to Des Arc after a frog gigging trip. On an overcast Sunday night, Poole’s pick-up truck headlights malfunctioned. The two men concluded that the headlight fuse on the older model truck had burned out. As a replacement fuse was not available, Wallis noticed that the…22 caliber bullet from his pistol fit perfectly into the fuse box next to the steering wheel column. Upon inserting the bullet, the headlights again began to operate properly and the two men proceeded on, east-bound toward the White River bridge. After traveling approximately twenty miles and just before crossing the river, the bullet apparently overheated, discharged, and struck Poole in the right testicle. The vehicle swerved sharply to the right exiting the pavement and striking a tree. Poole suffered only minor cuts and abrasions from the accident, but will require surgery to repair the other wound. Wallis sustained a broken clavicle and was treated and released. “Thank God we weren’t on that bridge when Thurston shot his nuts off or we might both be dead,” stated Wallis. “I’ve been a trooper for ten years in this part of the world, but this is a first for me. I can’t believe that those two would admit how this accident happened”, said Deputy Snyder. Upon being notified of the wreck, Lavinia, Poole’s wife, asked how many frogs the boys had caught and did anyone get them from the truck.
This last one is the original 1997 Darwin Award winner; however, he had to be disqualified since he didn’t meet the criteria (i.e. he’s still in the gene pool, albeit the VERY shallow end).
Los Angeles Times:
[I Can See Clearly Now….]
Larry Waters of Los Angeles had a boyhood dream – 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 45 weather 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 leveled 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 into trouble. He found himself drifting into 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 helicopter 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.
Finally, a story about a woman who would lose a battle-of-wits with Forest Gump.
AP, Arkansas:[Pillsbury Dough Boy Wanted for Attempted Murder]
A woman named Linda went to Arkansas last week to visit her in-laws, and while there, went to a store. She parked next to a car with a woman sitting in it, her eyes closed and hands behind her head, apparently sleeping.
When Linda came out a while later, she again saw the woman, her hands still behind her head but with her eyes open. The woman looked very strange, so Linda tapped on the window and said “Are you okay?”
The woman answered “I’ve been shot in the head, and I am holding my brains in.” Linda didn’t know what to do; so she ran into the store where store officials called the paramedics. They had to break into the car because the door was locked.
When they got in, they found that the woman had bread dough on the back of her head and in her hands. A Pillsbury biscuit canister had exploded, apparently from the heat in the car, making a loud explosion like that of a gunshot, and hit her in the head. When she reached back to find what it was, she felt the dough and thought it was her brains. She passed out from fright at first, then attempted to hold her brains in!