1. (April 2010, Romania) A thirty-five-year-old man from Braila was only trying to fix a broken soil tamper, a tool his father had made himself and used for decades. The metal handle of this family heirloom had rusted loose and our man was trying to weld it back into position, but unfortunately he was welding the metal rod onto an antique WWII cannon shell.
Yes, the family had been banging a cannon shell against the garden dirt for two generations!
Specialists from the Bucharest ISU (General Institute for Emergency Situations) stated that the first weld had been made in a harmless position, but the second weld was made in exactly the wrong spot. The heat triggered the shell to explode, mortally wounding the man. In his defense, he was sure the projectile was harmless because his father had used it to compact earth for almost 40 years.
2. (19 July 2010, Washington) Thanks to Skagit Raceway, the town of Sedro-Woolley (pop. 10,000) fills with racing folks. During the American Sprint Car Series, two crew members--smart people with a high degree of mechanical ability--were working at a custom machine shop when they dreamed up an unusual thrill ride. The men put a a 55-gallon barrel in the parking lot, poured in four gallons of methanol, sat on top of the barrel, and lit the bunghole!
("Lit what?" "Lit the bunghole!" > define:bunghole)
Apparently they thought the barrel would skid across the parking lot like a rocket, with a tail of flame shooting out, and two rodeo clowns sitting on top waving their caps and wooting! But instead of sliding across the pavement, well, let's just point out that four gallons of methanol in a 55-gallon drum greatly resembles a bomb.
The barrel blew up beneath them with enough force that the end of the barrel landed 120 feet away. The two inspired Sparks* landed in Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where one man lost his life. The other survived with a sobering lesson on the power of internal combustion.
Working on a race car is a bit risky, but this was not a work-related shop accident. Rather, it was a dangerous and ill-conceived stunt by two bored men who were hoping to find some fun in a small town. Dear readers, please learn from the mistakes of others. You don't have time to make them all yourself!
3. Another account from the archives of a 30-year ER MD.
In the late fall and early winter months, snow-covered mountains become infested with hunters. One ambitious pair climbed high up a mountain in search of their quarry. The trail crossed a small glacier that had crusted over. The lead hunter had to stomp a foot-hold in the snow, one step at a time, in order to cross the glacier.
Somewhere near the middle of the glacier, his next stomp hit not snow but a rock. The lead hunter lost his footing and fell. Down the crusty glacier he zipped, off the edge and out of sight.
Unable to help, his companion watched him slide away. After a while, he shouted out, "Are you OK?"
"Yes!" came the answer.
Reasoning that it was a quick way off the glacier, the second hunter plopped down and accelerated down the ice, following his friend. There, just over the edge of the glacier, was his friend...holding onto the top of a tree that barely protruded from the snow.
There were no other treetops nearby, nothing to grab, nothing but a hundred-foot drop onto the rocks below. As the second hunter shot past the first, he uttered his final epitaph: a single word, which we may not utter lest our mothers soap our mouths.
4. Who would park the car on a busy freeway in heavy fog, for a quickie?
That's the whole picture: A young couple, driving along Via Dutra, the largest freeway in Brazil with tons of heavy traffic, at 6AM under heavy fog. The couple decided that this was the time to park (for "dating" according to the charming Google translation) and, yes, they parked on the freeway in the right-hand lane, not on the shoulder, the median, or at a gas station. Naturally, given time a cargo truck encountered a "speed bump," instantly killing both -- during the act of procreation -- double-double Darwin Award! (2) people making (2) obviously bad decisions, and natural selection acts at the very moment the two are reproducing. Textbook!
5. (25 August 2010, Daejon, South Korea) VIDEO NEWS! A handicapped man, annoyed that an elevator closed and departed without him, thinks it over before ramming his wheelchair into the doors not once, not twice, but three times in all--only to plunge down the now-empty elevator shaft to his death. Simultaneous success and failure combine to earn the 40-year-old "Angry Wheelchair Man" lasting immortality as a Darwin Award winner. The tragic downfall of this rashly rushing rammer provides a heartening example of how brilliant you are--compared to some! However, natural selection just got a little harder. The authorities traced the "problem" to elevator doors that cannot withstand a large impact. Safety regulations were strengthened after the elevator was installed, to prevent accidents "such as might happen to children and drunks."
6. (1 January 2010, Netherlands) Every now and then a completely new window into the world opens before our eyes. Here we have rural Dutch families enjoying their traditional winter sport, carbidschieten, or Carbide Shooting. It's a ridiculously dangerous machine akin to a potato gun, designed to hurl projectiles from the mouth of a metal milk can.
Carbide shooting, that wacky Dutch New Year's tradition, begins with moistening calcium carbide and placing it in a large milk container. The damp CaCb emits acetylene (ethyne) gas which builds up inside the container. Then a spark is supplied, causing the pressurized gas bomb to blow the lid (or packing) off the milk jug.
Our nominee, a 54-year-old male, was having the time of his life--right up until the moment he poured a container filled with liquid oxygen over a fire to "flare it up" -- and the container obligingly exploded.