They coulda been a contender

Because they can't all be winners ...

Published January 3, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Nine Darwin Awards nominees we think deserved a medal:

Fatal footsie

1999 Darwin Awards runner-up

Decades of armed strife has 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.

Sink the cueball

1999 Darwin Awards nominee

A 23-year-old painter in Scotland was known by his friends as "Death Wish" because of his reckless behavior, which included smashing glasses on his forehead and swallowing keys and glass. The police described him as "of good health physically but of low intellect." He was generally regarded as a bit of a fool, and probably resorted to such tricks in an futile effort to increase his social standing. Frequently, he would "swallow" a pool ball and then regurgitate it. The man had successfully performed this trick on many occasions by keeping the poolball at the back of his throat. This was possible because of the unique size of a pool ball.

One day, a typical day in many respects, he was seen consuming large quantities of draught lager. After closing time, the publican readmitted him to continue illegal drinking with his friends. As the evening dragged on, he was seen to place a cue ball in his mouth. He had done this so many times that his behavior did not cause any concern. But this time, he found himself in difficulties. His friends tried to intervene, but he ran out of the pub and collapsed in the street, and began to turn blue. Neither his friends nor an ambulance crew were able to save his life.

Intelligence blunders

1999 Darwin Awards nominee

A deadly explosion in the Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation in Manila was initially considered to be a terrorist act.
But the ensuing investigation linked the event not to criminals, but to NBI agents smoking near a bucketful of TNT. The blast killed seven people, including the perpetrator, and demolished the NBI Special Investigation Division. Several grenades also exploded in the fire.

Gone fishin'

1999 Darwin Awards nominee

A fisherman in Kiev, Ukraine, electrocuted himself while fishing in the river Tereblya. The 43-year-old man connected cables to the main power supply of his home, and trailed the end into the river. The electric shock killed the fish, which floated belly-up to the top of the water.
The man then waded in to collect his catch, neglecting to remove the live wire, and tragically suffered the same fate as the fish.

In an ironic twist, the man was fishing for a mourning meal to commemorate the first anniversary of his mother-in-law's death.

Lawyer aloft

1996 Darwin Awards nominee

Police said a lawyer demonstrating the safety of windows in a downtown Toronto skyscraper crashed through a pane with his shoulder and plunged 24 floors to his death. A police spokesman said Garry Hoy, 39, fell into the courtyard of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower early Friday evening as he was explaining the strength of the building's windows to visiting law students. Hoy previously had conducted demonstrations of window strength, according to police reports. Peter Lauwers, managing partner of the firm Holden Day Wilson, told the Toronto Sun newspaper that Hoy was "one of the best and brightest" members of the 200-person association.

Macho men?

1996 Darwin Awards winners

Some men will got to extraordinary lengths to prove how macho they are. Witness Pierre Pumpille, of Lyon, France, who recently shunted a stationary car two feet by head-butting it. "Women thought I was a god," he explained from his hospital bed.

Deity or not, however, Pumpille is a veritable girl's blouse compared to Polish farmer Krystof Azninski, who staked a strong claim to being Europe's most macho man by cutting off his own head. Azninski, 30, had been drinking with friends when it was suggested they strip naked and play some "men's games." Initially they hit each other over the head with frozen icicles, but then one man seized a chainsaw and cut off the end of his foot. Not to be outdone, Azninski grabbed the saw and crying "Watch this then!" -- then swung at his own head and chopped it off.

"It's funny," said one companion, "because when he was young he put on his sister's underwear. But he died like a man."

Repairs on the road

1995 Darwin Awards nominee

James Burns, 34, of Alamo, Mich., was killed in March as he was trying to repair what police described as a "farm-type truck." Burns got a friend to drive the truck on a highway while Burns hung underneath so that he could ascertain the source of a troubling noise. Burns' clothes caught on something, however, and the other man found Burns "wrapped in the drive shaft."

Wrong Time, Wrong Place

1990 Darwin Awards nominee

A man tried to commit a robbery in Renton, Wash. This was probably his first attempt, as suggested by the fact that he had no previous record of violent crime, and by his terminally stupid choices:

1) The target was H&J Leather & Firearms, a gun shop.

2) The shop was full of customers, in a state where a substantial portion of the adult population is licensed to carry concealed handguns in public places.

3) To enter the shop, he had to step around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door.

4) An officer in uniform was standing next to the counter, having coffee before reporting to duty.

Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a holdup and fired a few wild shots. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, removing him from the gene pool. Several other customers also drew their guns, but didn't fire. No one else was hurt

Priapism takes a penis

1988 Darwin Awards nominee

Doctors warn of a dangerous new method of cocaine abuse: injecting the drug directly into the urinary tract. Physicians from New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center reported the case of a 34-year-old man who suffered severe bleeding under the skin after pumping cocaine into his urethra. It led to complications that destroyed his penis, nine fingers, and parts of his legs.

"They fill an eye dropper or a syringe with a cocaine solution and inject it into the penis," said Dr. Samuel Perry, a professor of clinical psychiatry.
The man had injected cocaine before intercourse in an effort to enhance sexual performance. He was admitted to the hospital because his penis had remained erect for three days, resulting in a painful inability to urinate. The medical term for a prolonged erection is "priapism."

On his third day in the hospital, the man's erection suddenly subsided. Over the next 12 hours, blood leaked into the tissues of his feet, hands, genitals, back and chest. Blood coagulation caused tissues to die over large areas of the patient's body, and he was transferred to the burn unit of New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

Doctors there were forced to amputate the man's legs above the knee and all but one of his fingers to stop the spread of gangrene. The patient's penis fell off by itself. The man is currently recovering in a rehabilitation facility.

By Salon Staff

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