(17 June 2003, United Kingdom) The National Express bus service between Aberdeen and London takes approximately twelve hours, with NO SMOKING on the coach. A 43-year-old woman was riding south from Glasgow, and as the miles rolled by, she became more and more desperate for a cigarette. It’s a long trip for addicts.
The coach stopped at Carlisle–at last, she could satisfy her craving! But no, she was not allowed off the coach. She sat in her seat, becoming more agitated by the mile. She was craving a cigarette. She was fuming.
Fellow passengers said she became increasingly anxious as the journey continued, and started shouting that she wanted off. However, the coach was on a motorway at the time. It was not permitted to stop, save for emergencies.
Somewhere between Shap and Penrith, passengers saw the woman push against the passenger door in the middle of the lower deck. She couldn’t be trying to get off to smoke, could she?
Oh, yes she could!
Police concluded that the coach was traveling approximately sixty miles per hour. Our involuntary non-smoker was crushed beneath its wheels. At that point, the coach did make that hoped-for emergency stop, but life is not fair. Unlike a condemned man, our heroine never did get that last cigarette.
(31 May 2003, Indiana) Tamar came all the way from New York for the annual Stark Raven Mad event at the Splashin’ Safari waterpark at Holiday World, where members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts planned to rendezvous on Memorial Day weekend. The 32-year-old eagerly looked forward to riding the Raven, later described by Spencer County Prosecutor Jon Dartt as “one of the world’s most terrifying roller coasters.”
Tamar planned what coaster enthusiasts call “catching airtime,” standing up during the ride to show bravery. The park staff warned the “spirited and intelligent” Harvard MBA, along with the rest of the group, “Don’t mess with our safety equipment.” Tamar’s seat belt and lap bar restraint were in place when the train left the station. But you can’t catch airtime that way. Her seatbelt was later found unbuckled and tucked into the seat cushions.
As the train swooped over the precipice into the “infamous drop” on the fifth turn at 60 mph, where the G-forces are notoriously skyward, Tamar unlatched her seat belt and stood up. The train dropped, but Tamar didn’t. She caught good air until she landed on the ground, 69 feet below.
This actually happened in the county next door to mine back home…
(14 February 2002, Pennsylvania) Daniel and his friend were practicing their marksmanship by shooting at targets in a farm field. But instead of the usual choices of mice, bottles, or birds, they selected a more worthy adversary: electrical insulators.
These pear-shaped glass or plastic devices are intended to hold electrical wires aloft. But after the men shot six insulators off two utility poles, the shattered targets were no longer up to the job. A high-voltage wire fell to the ground and Daniel, attempting to prevent a serious fire, seized the sizzling wire in his hand, and was electrocuted.
An Allegheny Power spokesman advised people not to shoot at electrical insulators.
(November 2002, Belgium) A retired engineer booby-trapped his home with the intention of killing his estranged family, but died himself after inadvertently triggering one of his own devices.
At first, police assumed that the 79-year-old had committed suicide, as he was found alone with a bullet wound in his neck. Then a detective missed a bullet by inches when he opened a booby-trapped wooden chest. Police beat a hasty retreat from the property and called in military experts.
They deciphered an enigmatic series of scribbled clues to locate 19 death traps in walls, ceilings, and household objects. A pile of booby-trapped dinner plates was revealed by the clue, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” a reference to a film in which a child throws a plate at someone’s head. Police speculate that the the notes were intended to assist his failing memory.
Other traps included numerous concealed shotguns triggered by threads, and an exploding crate of beer set to detonate once a certain number of bottles were rmoved. It took three weeks to crack 19 of the 20 clues, and experts were forced to admit defeat on the final note: “The 12 Apostles are ready to work on the pebbles.” Said one, “We have never come across anything like it before. It was all fiendishly clever.”
True to form, the “fiendishly clever” but careless Darwin Award winner was described by neighbors as a taciturn but harmless man who enjoyed puttering in his garage. But relatives say he never forgave his wife for divorcing him twenty years before. Police believe he bagan installing the traps for four years, after losing a lengthy battle to keep his home.
(7 March 2002, Colorado) When Gerald was pulled over by police for erratic driving, he decided it was better to flee from the stolen car on foot, rather than face possible jail time for a parole violation. This was the first of two successive mental lapses. Gerald’s actual thoughts are unknown, but *may* have been something like this: “The officers are only suspicious and alert now… I’ll make them hot, sweaty, tired, and angry by leading them on a wild chase through dark alleys and fields.”
During the subsequent foot chase, Gerald attempted to dissuade officers from the pursuit by firing a 9mm Ruger semiautomatic handgun blindly over his shoulder. This was the second illustration of a potential mental deficiency. “Officers are running behind me. They have guns. I have a gun! They have eyes in the front of their heads, so they can see to aim at me. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, so I’ll fire wildly behind me and see what happens!”
Unfortunately, Gerald appears to have been one of those folks who can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. Or at least he couldn’t flee and fire at the same time. While discharging the weapon over his shoulder, Gerald managed to shoot himself in the head with his own gun, bringing the chase to a sudden conclusion.
Four shots were fired, none by the officers, who found Gerald’s pistol next to his fallen body. Gerald was transported to a local hospital where he expired the following day, thus removing a set of genes deficient in both judgment and coordination from the gene pool.
(12 December 1998, Canada)
Kevin, a 19-year-old Quebec student, killed himself at Bishop’s University while shaking a 420-kilogram Coke machine. He had been celebrating the end of final exams with friends. He died beneath the soda machine, asphyxiated, with a blood alcohol level slightly over the legal driving limit.
Kevin’s last act was committed in vain. “Even as it fell over, the vending machine did not let out a single can,” the coroner reported. Soda-holics take note! The report also states that toppled vending machines have caused at least 35 deaths and 140 injuries in the last twenty years.
For those with enquiring minds, I refer you to a website dedicated to the quest to clear Kevin’s name. His family questions the official version on their website, aptly named cokemachineaccidents.com. They recently sued Coca-Cola, two related companies, and Bishop’s University for “gross carelessness.” Their website expose proffers several explanations for why Kevin’s death was not his own fault: shaking coke machines “was common practice at the University,” and anyway, unknown persons might have crushed Kevin with the vending machine in a bizarre murder, as it “would be difficult for one person to move” the machine.
In response, a spokesperson for Coke said that Canadian machines are now labeled with a warning that “tipping or rocking may cause injury or death.” They have also installed anti-theft devices in newer models to keep people from obtaining free drinks.
(12 October 2001, Finland) A group of friends was stranded beside the freeway when their automobile ran out of gas. The weather was terrible, and despite their frantic efforts, nobody would stop to help them. Eventually one member of the group became so frustrated that he stomped to the middle of the freeway and sprawled out across the road.
His friends tried to get him to move, but he yelled back, “I could sleep here…” He was hit by an Audi sports car and dragged 60 meters to his death.
The police found several empty beer bottles lying around the car. We can only hope the 21-year-old was drunk enough to dull the pain of the impact.
(24 November 2001, Hungary) Two farmers were killed and a third was hospitalized with serious injuries after the men attempted to kill a pig with a homemade stun gun during a traditional Hungarian pre-Christmas slaughter.
One farmer electrocuted himself with the jury-rigged device during an unsuccessful attempt to knock out the pig. The elderly owner of the pig was so alarmed at the tragedy unfolding before his eyes that he suffered a heart attack and died.
The third farmer tried to come to the rescue of the first farmer by pulling the plug out of the socket. He was shocked, but survived.
The pig came to no harm that day.
(11 October 2001, Tennessee) Eight freshman college students were hanging around a vacant library late one night, when they decided it would be a thrill to leap into a small opening they thought was a laundry chute.
Perhaps a few more years of college would have helped them realize that libraries don’t have laundry chutes. It was actually a garbage chute feeding directly into an automatic trash compactor. 19-year-old Wesley “Crusher” was the first to jump. He enjoyed an exhilarating three-story slide before being crushed to death in the rubbish bin below.
(16 July, 2001, United States) An assistant plant manager for Blacklidge Emulsions died when he used an acetylene torch to cut a hole in a 10,000 gallon tank of asphalt emulsion. He was attempting to visually survey the amount of emulsion that remained in the tank, but “no safety precautions were taken before the cutting operation began,” stated an OSHA representative. “[His] attention was twice called to a warning sign on the side of the structure which stated the contents were combustible. In complete disregard of safety procedures,” the erstwhile manager “lit an acetylene torch and began cutting, causing an explosion that blew him 93 feet away.