(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.
(09 Nov 1999, Mexico) A Mexican jail guard died from an excess of zeal while supervising an inmate’s conjugal visit. Raul Zarate Diaz was closely watching his charge from the roof of the prison when he tripped over an air vent, crashed through the skylight, and fell 23 feet to land beside the bed where the inmate and his wife were, against all odds, enjoying an intimate moment. The interrupted prisoner, offended by the intrusion, attempted to start a riot, but was squelched by prison security.
Prisoners in the Tapachula facility reported that Diaz was in the habit of prowling the prison roof during conjugal visits, in search of prisoners to supervise. Local law enforcement reported that the guard was clutching a pornographic magazine, which was retained as evidence, and binoculars, whose sentimental value led to them being given back to the family of the deceased.
(15 July 1999, Tennessee) Seven firefighters from the Sequoyah Volunteer Fire Department, located in rural Hamilton County north of Chattanooga, decided to impress their Chief by surreptitiously setting fire to a house, then heroically extinguishing the blaze. The men apparently hatched the plan in order to help Daniel, a former firefighter, return to duty.
Unfortunately, Daniel’s career plans were irreversibly snuffed when he became trapped while pouring gasoline inside the house. Surrounded by smoke and flames, he was unable to escape, and died inside the burning house on June 26.
His six accomplices are facing 87 years in prison for conspiracy, arson, and burglary.
(22 March 1999, Phnom Penh) Decades of armed strife have littered Cambodia with unexploded munitions and ordnance. Authorities warn citizens not to tamper with the devices.
Three friends recently spent an evening sharing drinks and exchanging insults at a local cafe in the southeastern province of Svay Rieng. Their companionable arguing continued for hours, until one man pulled out a 25-year-old unexploded anti-tank mine found in his backyard.
He tossed it under the table, and the three men began playing Russian roulette, each tossing down a drink and then stamping on the mine. The other villagers fled in terror.
Minutes later, the explosive detonated with a tremendous boom, killing the three men in the bar. “Their wives could not even find their flesh because the blast destroyed everything,” the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper reported.
(25 April 1998, Massachusetts) One fateful day in April, a private pilot landed his Piper PA-32-300 at the New Bedford airport. To secure his aircraft against thieves, he inserted a gust lock into the co-pilot’s control column, and padlocked it in place. This procedure is fairly common, except that the gust lock is usually placed on the pilot’s control column. That way it’s hard to forget it when you prepare to depart. Many gust locks have a big red plate that hangs down to cover the ignition and master switch. We will never know why our soon to be dead friend chose to put the gust lock on the co-pilot’s side.
The pilot went off to have some drinks and returned to his plane at 10:30 PM. He hopped into the aircraft with 155 mg/dL of ethanol in his blood, and departed without remembering to check that the flight controls were unobstructed. A witness to the accident reported that he departed the runway at a very steep angle, consistent with having a gust lock installed. About this time, our erstwhile friend realized that he forgot to remove the gust lock, and that his plane will soon stall. The real problem is that the key for the padlock is on the same keyring as the key for the ignition. So he had two choices: try to remove the padlock key from the keyring while keeping the plane running, which will take more time than he has, or turn off the engine, which will accelerate the stall, then rush to remove the gust lock and restart the engine. He chose option B.
But he didn’t make it in time. The airplane, its course fixed by the gust lock, “went straight up in the air like an acrobat” then appeared to level off, turn northwest, then northeast, followed by “a nose dive” and a rapid descent to the ground.
When the National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrived at the scene he discovered the padlock and gust lock still installed and the keyring with both keys still on it on the floor of the cockpit.
(16 June 1998, Illinois) A man drowned in Fox Lake after he and a friend inadvertently blasted a hole in the bottom of their rowboat with a quarter stick of dynamite. Daniel, twenty-nine, and his unidentified friend were relaxing on the lake on Sunday in a fourteen-foot aluminum boat, when they decided to toss the M-250 explosive into the water. They intended to kill fish with the blast, not themselves, said chief deputy coroner Jim Wipper. A sudden gust of wind pushed their boat over the firecracker, and the boat sank about a hundred yards from shore. Daniel drowned; the friend swam safely to land.