Darwin Awards '97
It is once again time to vote for the Darwin Award nominees for 1997.
Darwin Award winners are those individuals who help to perfect the
species by eliminating their own genes from the gene pool.
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 could not be turned
off once it was turned on.
And 1994's winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which
toppled on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
(See also the 1998 Darwin Awards)
The 1997 nominees are:
- NOMINEE #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.
- NOMINEE #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."
- NOMINEE #3 - Reuters, Mississauga, Ontario:
- Man Slips, Falls 23 Stories to His Death. 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."
- NOMINEE #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.
- NOMINEE #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
- NOMINEE #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.
- NOMINEE #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
- NOMINEE #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.
- NOMINEE #10 - The News of the Weird; JOINT NOMINEE:
- 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.
- NOMINEE #11 - The Indianapolis Star:
- Cigarette lighter may have triggered fatal explosion 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
- NOMINEE #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. It was not clear if the tower he hit was one with its pad
removed. "With the cold temperatures, the snow was probably pretty
fast," said Donnelly.
- NOMINEE #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.
- NOMINEE #14 - AP, St. Louis:
- 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.
- NOMINEE 15 - Unknown:
- To poacher Marino Malerba, who shot a stag standing above him on an
overhanging rock -- and was killed instantly when it fell on him.
- NOMINEE 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
- NOMINEE #17 - Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 1-1-93:
- 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]
- 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
been 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
- Low Blow for Gunman VANCOUVER (CP)
From The Calgary Sun Saturday, December 28, 1996:
- 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 20's was
brought in by friends. Charges are pending against the victim, who is
expected to survive.
- Two Local Men Injured in Freak Truck Accident, Cotton Patch, Ark.
Arkansas Democrat Gazette, July 25, 1996:
- Two local men were seriously injured when their pickup 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 RayWallis, 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 pickup 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 eastbound 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
"Thank God we weren't on that bridge when Thurston shot his ball 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 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.
- Who's smarter? Raccoons or men?
Unconfirmed. Received via email
- In rural Carbon County, PA, a group of men were drinking beer and
discharging firearms from the rear deck of a home owned by Irving
Michaels, age 27.
The men were firing at a raccoon that was wandering by, but the beer
apparently impaired their aim and, despite of the estimated 35 shots the
group fired, the animal escaped into a 3 foot diameter drainage pipe
some 100 feet away from Mr. Michaels' deck.
Determined to terminate the animal, Mr. Michaels retrieved a can of
gasoline and poured some down the pipe, intending to smoke the animal
out. After several unsuccessful attempts to ignite the fuel, Michaels
emptied the entire 5 gallon fuel can down the pipe and tried to ignite
it again, to no avail.
Not one to admit defeat by wildlife, the determined Mr. Michaels
proceeded to slide feet-first approximately 15 feet down the sloping
pipe to toss the match. The subsequent rapidly expanding fireball
propelled Mr. Michaels back the way he had come, though at a much higher
rate of speed. He exited the angled pipe "like a Polaris missile leaves
a submarine," according to witness Joseph McFadden, 31. Mr. Michaels
was launched directly over his own home, right over the heads of his
astonished friends, onto his front lawn. In all, he traveled over 200
feet through the air.
"There was a Doppler Effect to his scream as he flew over us," McFadden
reported, "Followed by a loud thud." Amazingly, he suffered only minor
"It was actually pretty cool," Michaels said, "Like when they shoot
someone out of a cannon at the circus. I'd do it again if I was sure I
wouldn't get hurt."
There still is no word about the raccoon.
- Do-It-Yourself Brain Surgery?!
Unconfirmed. Received via email
- In Ohio, an unidentified man in his late twenties walked into a
police station with a 9-inch wire protruding from his forehead and
calmly asked officers to give him an X-ray to help him find his
brain, which he claimed had been stolen. Police were shocked to learn
that the man had drilled a 6-inch deep hole in his skull with a Black
& Decker power drill and had stuck the wire in to try and find the