March 7, 1997
Years ago in the comics section of the newspaper–the only part of the newspaper that I really pay any attention to–there was a special section called "Biography". It was, I think, one of those semi-hip attempts to draw teenagers to the comics. It lasted about six months, but in that period of time, its effect was devastating. Regardless of what kind of entertainer they focused on each week–singer, comedian, actor–that person would disappear completely from the public eye immediately afterward. Their career could be rising, falling, mediocre, successful…it didn’t matter. Once they were featured, they were gone. If out-of-work performers appeared on milk cartons, they would all say "Last seen in: Biography comic strip." It’s not hard to guess, though, why this comic strip cut down everything in its path: they all ended the same way. "<Blank> is destined to be one of the greatest <fill in occupation> ever!"
Enjoy the following piece about some other people who were unquestionably destined for…well…
Darwin Awards II
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.
Darwin Awards are (by definition) granted posthumously. This citation is bestowed upon (the remains of) that individual, who through single-minded self-sacrifice, has done the most to remove undesirable elements from the human gene pool.
The 1996 nominees are:
[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.
[Hickory Daily Record 12/21/92] 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.
[Unknown, 25 March] 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.
[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."
[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.
[AP, Cairo, Egypt, 31 Aug 1995 CAIRO, Egypt (AP)] 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.
[Times of London] A thief who sneaked into a hospital was scarred for life when he tried to get a suntan. After evading security staff at Odstock Hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and helping himself to doctor’s paging devices, the thief spotted a vertical sunbed. He walked into the unit and removed his clothes for a 45-minute tan. However, the high-voltage UV machine at the hospital, which is renowned for its treatment of burns victims, has a maximum dosage of 10 seconds. After lying on the bed for almost 300 times the recommended maximum time, the man was covered in blisters. Hours later, when the pain of the burns became unbearable, he went to Southampton General Hospital, 20 miles away, in Hampshire. Staff became suspicious because he was wearing a doctor’s coat. After tending his wounds they called the police. Southampton police said: "This man broke into Odstock and decided he fancied a quick suntan. Doctors say he is going to be scarred for life."
"More intelligence-challenged people"
45 year-old Amy Brasher was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, after a mechanic reported to police that 18 packages of marijuana were packed in the engine compartment of the car which she had brought to the mechanic for an oil change. According to police, Brasher later said that she didn’t realize that the mechanic would have to raise the hood to change the oil.
Portsmouth, R.I.Police charged Gregory Rosa, 25, with a string of vending machine robberies in January when he:
1. fled from police inexplicably when they spotted him loitering around a vending machine and
2. later tried to post his $400 bail in coins.
Karen Lee Joachimi, 20, was arrested in Lake City, Florida, for robbery of a Howard Johnson’s motel. She was armed with only an electric chainsaw, which was not plugged in.
The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 7:50 am, flashed a gun and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast. The man, frustrated, walked away.
In case you’ve forgotten about the 1995 awardees, some of them are listed below:
* 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." [Kalamazoo Gazette, 4-1-95]
* Same thing up here in MI. Seems some poor fella thought it would be a good idea to "move" a downed wire from his car. Newspaper reports it took a FULL MINUTE of neighbors whacking away at him with a 2×4 to free their freshly fried former friend from the fatal flashing.
* Bowling Green, Ohio, student Robert Ricketts, 19, had his head bloodied when he was struck by a Conrail train. He told police he was trying to see how close to the moving train he could place his head without getting hit.
* In Wesley Chapel, Florida, Joseph Aaron, 20, was hit in the leg with pieces of the bullet he fired at the exhaust pipe of his car. When repairing the car, he needed to bore a hole in the pipe. When he couldn’t find a drill, he tried to shoot a hole in it.