Darwin Awards


July 2009, South Carolina | Two disguised men entered the Sprint store on Sparkleberry Lane, pulled out guns, and stole wallets, purses, and credit cards before ordering the employees into a bathroom. Both men fled, but they could not flee from their own stupidity. 24-year-old James Thomas had disguised himself
by spray-painting his own face.

Yes, in order to conceal his identity during the robbery, Thomas covered his skin with paint, a toxic substance with well known inhalation risks. He began having trouble breathing and died wheezing shortly after the robbery took place. Witnesses
were certain as to the identity of their assailant; had he lived, he would have been charged with armed robbery.


April 2008, Florida | Traffic was moving slowly on southbound I-95. Shawn Montero had left a Pompano Beach bar with three friends, and now all four were stuck in traffic. You don't buy beer, you just rent it, and Shawn couldn't wait another moment to relieve himself.

"I need to take a leak." He was dying to go.

Traffic was deadlocked, so the waterlogged man climbed out, put his hand on the divider, and jumped over the low concrete wall, only to fall 65 feet to his death.

"He probably thought there was a road, but there wasn't," said a Fort Lauderdale police spokesman.

His mother shared her thoughts. "Shawn didn't do a whole lot for a living. He got along on his charm, just like his father." Though his death was tragic, it proves the old adage: Look before you leak.


September 2009, Belgium | Two bankrobbers attempting to make a sizeable withdrawal from an ATM machine in Dinant died when they overestimated the quantity of dynamite needed for the explosion.

Nobody else was in the building at the time of the attack. "Robber one" was rushed to hospital severely injured, and "robber two" was unexpectedly excavated from the debris twelve hours later.

Uncovering the second bungler's body was a surprise because investigators initially assumed that the accomplice had managed a getaway. Would-be robbers "one" and "two" weren't exactly impoverished, their getaway car was a BMW.


"This weekend was the final straw. Being an extremely cost-conscious person, Dad decided that putting half a can of varnish in the toaster oven to liquefy it was the cheapest approach. You guessed it, the stuff caught fire! I found him in front of the
flaming oven contemplating picking up the varnish can with his bare hands. Two-foot flames were shooting out of the can, causing me to utter a line spoken far too many times in our house: "What were you thinking?"

Father's attempts at Darwin Fame have included:
1) Tipping a small boat on Cayuga Lake, NY while fishing, almost drowning my brother and himself. At the time I thought Mom was being too hard on him when she said it was his own fault that he was in the hospital. I have since revised my judgment.

2) Removing a branch from a locust tree by climbing a ladder with a running chainsaw. The branch was not tied off properly, so it fell onto a shed roof that he was trying to avoid. A rope that was held by my mother and a neighbor slipped and both fell. Poor Mom sustained two black eyes because she fell headfirst onto the
neighbor's knees.

3) Rolling a lawn tractor on top of himself by mowing a roadside ditch at a steep angle, resulting in a broken rib, and poison ivy for me because I spent ten minutes thrashing around in the vegetation while we tried to roll the tractor off Dad, again.

4) Lighting a fire in a basement trash burner that was not connected to an exhaust pipe. The fire department loves us.

5) Putting an aluminum dutch oven on the stove, starting some water to boil and wandering off to watch the evening news. Note that the Merck Index lists the melting point of aluminum as 660 degrees C. When Mom discovered the situation, the pot had boiled dry, the bottom was melted out, the pot walls were glowing bright red, and
the kitchen wall was starting to smoke.

6) Testing the efficacy of old Nitroglycerin tablets by swallowing three at once to see if they still worked. I did say he was cheap, er, cost conscious. The EMS came to the rescue because his blood pressure had dropped to an undesirable level and he was passed out at the kitchen table. Mere minutes before, he was planning a drive
to the donut shop. Thank God he didn't make it to the car before his blood pressure dropped.

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