(21 February 2004, Ottawa, Canada) Ameer, a second-year engineering student at Carleton University, was celebrating his 20th birthday with friends in his 11th-floor apartment when they embarked on a spitting contest. His two friends had already made their marks. Ameer thought he could use his engineering skills to improve his performance. A quick mental calculation of trajectory, projectile velocity, and wind speed indicated that winning required more than a simple “stand and spit” technique. Ameer took a running start, flew over the balcony railing, and plunged to his death.
“It was purely accidental,” said Ottawa police, “momentum carried him beyond.” The building’s security guard heard the thud. “He was one of the smartest guys I ever met in my life,” the guard said. “He had a maturity beyond his age.”
Spitting contest deaths are becoming a trend. In 1999, a 25-year-old soldier in Alabama won the first Darwin Award in this category in 1999, using the same techinque and achieving the same result. 23-year-old Bartosz of Mt. Prospect, was nominated for falling 20 feet onto his head in December 2005. Bartosz is remarkable for having fallen over an apartment railing without running start. But Ameer clearly trumps his competitors with his 11-story fall.
(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.
(21 July 2001, Idaho) When his brakes failed while driving down a steep mountain road, Marco bailed out on his eight passengers and leapt from his Dodge van. Too bad Marco didn’t alert the others to the problem before he took flight so precipitously. Another passenger was able to bring the vehicle to a stop a short distance away. Marco struck his head on the pavement and died at the scene. No one else was injured.
I had the pleasure of being on the Beta team for this book. And no, it doesn’t matter one iota that Bob is a fellow author of mine at Greyhart – nor that I count him a friend. This, folks, is a great book. As I wrote in my review, I don’t believe in the whole “couldn’t put it down” thing. But. When I put this one down, I looked forward to when I could pick it up again :)
Please…for your own sake…check it out…
September Book Launches: The Last Sunset.
Another Reason to Kick the Habit
(31 October 1998, Canada) For Halloween this year, a Canadian man dressed as a mummy by wrapping himself from head to toe in fluffy cotton batting. The cotton was taped at the wrists and ankles, and white gloves and running shoes completed his ensemble. As the mummy waited for his girlfriend to dress for pictures, he carelessly lit a cigarette… and the fluffy cotton burst into flames.
The reason for flame-retardant costumes became clear.
Firefighters arrived within minutes, yet already the mummy costume was reduced to ashes, right down to the white coveralls underneath. The man kept repeating, “It’s my fault.” He was taken to Soldier’s Memorial Hospital with 2nd and 3rd degree burns, where he died the next morning.