(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.
(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.
(July 1998) A man with the unlikely ambition to jump off every river bridge in Norwich ended his athletic career with a 70-foot leap into three feet of water. Friends said the 34-year-old man had fulfilled his dream of jumping off every city bridge spanning the River Wensum. Having exhausted the bridge selection, this time he climbed to the top of a multi-story car park, looked down from the parapets and shouted an enquiry to onlookers asking how deep the water was. Then he plunged to his death in the shallow waters below. Emergency workers were unable to resuscitate the man, who was said to possess “a strange and unusual passion for jumping into rivers.”