Embarrassingly Dumb Ways People Died - Darwin Awards Winners (Part 5)

And we're back yet again with some astounding Darwin Awards winners!


You might be thinking after so many articles on this series, we’d be running low on accounts of people who embarrassingly removed themselves from the gene pool. And yet, unbelievably, here are even more stories of idiots that ended themselves in the dumbest ways possible. From attempting to French Kiss a rattlesnake to laughing in the face of gun safety, here’s a new article on our never-ending Darwin Awards!

Butt of the Joke

As far as dumb decisions go, this next one is probably the funniest dumb decision ever. Back in 2009, in Pennsylvania, USA, a 17-year-old boy was rushed to A&E after claiming bullies had planted an explosive in his backpack! Obviously, the police were called, but the injuries he sustained didn’t match his story.

It was only then that the teen revealed what had actually happened. He’d gone riffling through his grandmother’s possessions and found an M-80 explosive; an American class of very large firecracker containing some 80 grams of flash powder.

M-80 explosive

They were often used by the US military to simulate grenade explosions, but they were banned from sale in 1966 by the Child Protection Act. And we’re about to find out why. That idiot had taken the firecracker up to his room and in a stunningly stupid move, began to repeatedly light and extinguish the fuse!

However, during one of those insane cycles, he lit it up, and couldn’t put it out. Instead of throwing the explosive out of a window or as far away as possible, he jammed the thing between his thighs and put his hands over it to muffle the sound of the explosion.

Big mistake. The resulting blast cost him his right hand, right leg, and ability to reproduce, and thus removed any future DNA of his from the gene pool!

The resulting blast cost the boy his right hand, right leg

Love in The Cockpit

Let’s fly back in time to 1991, Florida, where two pilots of a small Piper Seneca aircraft decided to undertake a simulated instrument flight. That is where a literal hood is placed over the eyes of the pilot, and they fly using only the instruments on the dashboard. It’s a fairly standard practice.

However, on that day, witnesses noticed that while in the air, the aircraft’s right wing suddenly failed, before it dived down and crashed! Neither pilot survived. People began to wonder what could have caused such a tragic accident: had both pilots been wearing a hood? Was the plane defective? Was it on purpose?

On closer inspection of the crash, a few things became clear. The front right seat was in a fully reclined position, neither pilot was wearing their seatbelt, and both were only partially clothed. Further examination revealed no rips or tears to any zippers or buttons

The front right seat was in a fully reclined position, neither pilot was wearing their seatbelt

So it appeared that the pilots had removed their clothes themselves, used the fully reclined seat as a bed, and tried to join the mile-high club (if you get my drift)! But with no one flying the plane, it began to move erratically, leading to the wing failure and eventual crash! Guess you could say they were victims of the ultimate high.

Up In Flames

There are some jobs that are obviously a little more dangerous than others. Today’s construction workers, for example, face more physical risks than office workers. And back in 1819, no one had a riskier, or more fantastical, job than Sophie Blanchard.

Also known as Madame Blanchard, she was a French aeronaut, and was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist! She would ascend in a chair attached to hydrogen balloons to entertain huge crowds of people below her. That was a time before the internet, so the French had very limited entertainment options!

Sophie Blanchard would ascend in a chair attached to hydrogen balloon

Sophie would regularly perform in the Tivoli Gardens, sometimes using pyrotechnics called Blue Light or Bengal Fire to really spice up her high-flying act. The only problem is that hydrogen is incredibly flammable, and people knew that, regularly warning Sophie about the danger of using pyrotechnics in her shows!

But Sophie would not be deterred! And so, on the 6th of July 1819, a particularly gusty day, Sophie ascended. She struck up her fiery display and waved down to the crowds when, all of a sudden, her balloon caught alight!

The fire spread quickly, Hindenburg style, and she began to descend rapidly. She seemed calm, but then the wind caught her craft, blowing it out of the gardens and into the side of several nearby buildings, which is when she fell fatally! Not exactly the blaze of glory she was aiming for!

The Hydrogen Balloon caught on fire and Sophie Blanchard fell to her death

Can It

It’s not often that you send me your own stories for this series, but one Be Amazed reader called Colie Carney got in touch with a tale that definitely deserves a Darwin Award of its own! Back in 2015, Colie’s neighbor was bored. So bored that the only thing they could think of to alleviate their boredom was to grab their trash can, lay it down on the road, and hop inside it. They then used it to sled down the street like the world’s worst toboggan.

However, unlike a toboggan track, a road has cars, which Colie’s neighbors quickly discovered. Their trashcan soon collided with an oncoming car and was yeeted into the side of someone’s house! They didn’t survive. But they did prove that sometimes the trash takes itself out!

Colie’s neighbor got hit by a car and didn't survive

Bearing All

One important rule to live by is not to make any big decisions after having a few drinks! And this is a lesson that a Serbian gentleman could have benefitted from back in 2007. One evening during the Belgrade Beer Festival, a guy who was assumed to be absolutely wasted proceeded to head over to Belgrade Zoo, broke in, stripped down and then climbed into the bear enclosure!

The bears, Masha and Mischa, wasted no time making a meal of the guy, and it was only in the morning that the Zookeepers discovered him, half-eaten and wholly dead. They figured that he must have been under the influence, because in their words, “only an idiot would walk into the bear enclosure”.

The drunk Siberia guy was eaten by the bears, Masha and Mischa

Good Boy

Back in 2002, on the 29th of July, a TV channel in Ukraine reported on a story from the suburbs of Luhansk that nobody watching could believe. Late that evening, a deputy of the local administration board had been out walking his dog when he encountered a young police cadet.

The cadet was escorting two women home in the dark and noticed the dog wasn’t on a lead or wearing a muzzle. So, doing his duty, the cadet informed the deputy that what he was doing was illegal. The deputy, having been upstaged so publicly, began to argue with the cadet.

Things were getting tense, but the situation really escalated when the deputy suddenly revealed he had an RGD-5 grenade, pulled the pin, and hurled it at the cadet! But because his dog wasn’t on a lead or wearing a muzzle, the deputy’s faithful four-legged friend ran to retrieve the grenade like a ball, and brought it right back to him! The master and dog, sadly both met an explosive fate.

deputy’s dog retrieved the grenade back to him like a ball

Hot Shot

There aren’t enough considerate car thieves in this world, unlike our next Darwin Award Winner! Rather than just stealing cars and abandoning them when they were reported stolen, one car thief in Pittsburgh would also set fire to them, reasoning that it helped the owners claim insurance.

But that horrendous habit would eventually become his downfall. Back in 1998, our car-sonist and a few friends decided to steal an old van that wasn’t in the best of shape. Soon after, it was reported stolen to the police, so as usual, he planned to set the vehicle ablaze by lighting a fire in the passenger seat.

However, he didn’t know that the door handle on the driver’s side of the cab was broken. So, when he tried to get out, he quickly discovered he was trapped! His friends tried to get him out, but the door was locked, and the fire quickly burned out of control. Police found him the next day. Apparently, he was charred to a crisp!

The car arsonist got trapped inside the burning car

Idiot Confinement

We all know at least one person who just cannot live without attention. Aside from being impossible to satisfy, they often don’t know when to stop, much like our next award winner. Back in 2015, a Croatian criminal who’d been jailed for repeatedly threatening his ex-girlfriend was put in the prison’s solitary confinement section for bad behavior.

Not a fan of his new padded pad, he decided to force the guards to pay attention to him by pulling out a lighter he’d smuggled in, and setting fire to the cushioned pads lining the walls, ceiling, and floors. He expected the guards to come back to get him out immediately, but 20 seconds later, no one was coming. 40 seconds later, he was still on his own, and the fire was growing.

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After a minute, he began to panic, as the room was starting to fill with smoke and flames. All too late he realized he’d set fire to a room that was completely flammable, and the guards simply wouldn’t notice in time! That’s one way to serve a life sentence.

Man vs Tree

Back in 2004, police were called to the scene of an accident around the back of a house in Georgia, USA, that left them, in a word, stumped. A large tree had toppled on top of a truck, both of which were charred and smoldering. Inside the truck was a body, burned beyond recognition.

But the entire scene didn’t make any sense. The tree had fallen onto the truck instead of away from it, which is what they would have expected if the two had collided. But why would they have collided behind a house? And what had started the fire? Slowly but surely, the puzzle pieces came together.

the scene of an accident left the police stumpped

It appeared that the gentleman behind the wheel of the truck had been attempting to remove the tree from the yard by tying the truck to the tree and flooring it. He’d assumed the tree would use some sort of cartoon physics and fall away from the truck.

But because we live in reality, the tree fell in the direction of the applied force and landed on top of the truck, crushing the driver. The engine overheated, setting both the truck and tree ablaze, and the rest is Darwin Award Winning history!

tree fell in the direction of the applied force and landed on top of the truck, crushing the driver

Getting Shredded

Hiring a tree surgeon to trim back or cut down your trees can be expensive, but doing the work yourself can end up costing even more, as one man found out back in 2008. Instead of paying a professional, he’d hired an industrial tree shredder and placed it at the base of an old oak tree in his yard which had recently been struck by lightning.

He was planning on cutting away the dead section of the tree himself by climbing up and trimming it away, dropping any stray branches down into the hopper beneath him. The only thing was, he hadn’t used harnesses, safety equipment, or anything to secure himself to the tree! So, entirely unsecured, he clambered up the ladder, stepped out onto a branch, and began cutting away when suddenly he lost his footing and fell straight into the shredder!

The guy fell into the tree shredder machine while trying to trim a tree

Claymore Cretins

Cambodia has seen its share of violence and explosions following the historic and horrendous Cambodian-Vietnamese war. But in 1999, 10 years after the war ended, an explosion in a café in Svay Rieng province caught the attention of the tabloids.

According to witnesses, three regular frenemies were drinking heavily at a café and exchanging insults with one another, when one of them, clearly disgruntled, suddenly pulled out a claymore landmine and threw it under the table. He drunkenly explained he’d found it in his backyard, and wanted the men to play the ultimate game of Russian roulette with it!

three idiots taken out with one landmine

While the other, much smarter, patrons were fleeing, those three intoxicated idiots took turns stamping on the pressure-triggered explosive in an attempt to set it off! Several minutes and stamps later, the bomb detonated, taking all three men with it. They say you can take out two birds with one stone or in this case, three idiots with one landmine!

Leveled Crossing

April 15th is a pretty important day in the US calendar because that’s the most common day of the US tax filing deadline. But back in 2001, that fell on a Sunday, meaning there were limited post office hours available to send off any last-minute tax documents before the IRS came knocking.

It was something a man from Tennessee desperately wanted to avoid, and so he was in his car racing to the post office in the hopes of submitting his taxes on time. But as he was driving, he noticed a slow-moving train heading for a crossing which would have blocked his route for several minutes at least!

In an attempt to avoid that, he floored it and sped over the crossing just before the train reached it. But as he did so, another car racing from the other direction was also trying to beat the train, and the two collided!

While trying to beat the train, and the two collided

One driver perished, and the other was wounded, but by some cosmic miracle, the crash occurred just to the side of the tracks! So, the train passed by unimpeded, and no passengers were injured! Those idiots proved that trying to beat an active train crossing is taxing, to say the least!

Getting Airtime

If you’ve ever been to Holiday World and Splashing’ Safari in Indiana, USA, then you probably know The Raven. The big old bird-themed, wooden roller coaster has a peak height of 110 ft, and a top speed of 50 mph, not exactly the tallest or fastest coaster out there, but still super fun nonetheless!

However, back in 2003, one woman made a supremely dumb decision in a bid to really get her adrenaline pumping. Riding The Raven with her fiancé, the pair of roller coaster enthusiasts had their lap bar and seat belts checked by staff before the coaster set off.

But a few moments later, she undid her seatbelt, tucked the two sides into the cushions of her seat, and wriggled out of the lap bar! She wanted to stand up as the coaster went down the drops, in a bid to catch what roller coaster enthusiasts refer to as airtime! But during the fifth drop, which was some 69 ft high, she lost her footing and was sent tumbling over the edge to her demise!

She fell from 69 feet over the edge to her demise

Dog Days

In my opinion, people who hurt animals on purpose belong in a special circle of hell. And as it would happen, the next story, while involving a dog who was likely abused by its owner, ends humiliatingly for the said owner. That means I get to immortalize him here for the entire world to laugh at!

Let’s rewind to 2008 and head over to upstate New York. There, a 50-year-old man was bird hunting alongside a few of his buddies, with his faithful canine companion at his side. Suddenly, the dog found a deer's leg bone and began chewing on it. The owner tried to take it away, but the dog refused to give up its bone!

Frustrated, the hunter began to wield his shotgun like a club, swinging the butt of it at the dog! Each time he did, the dog dodged, that was until the idiot slammed the butt of the shotgun into the ground.

Embarrassingly Dumb Ways People Died - Darwin Awards Winners [Part 14]
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The shock triggered the gun to fire, with the muzzle pointed directly at his stomach. The huntsman was airlifted to hospital, but didn’t make it, though he did live just long enough to confirm this account to the police! At least the dog got to keep its bone!

Midnight Mess

North Carolina is an American state that allows a lot of different types of gun ownership. And while most people are careful with the way they use, handle, and store their guns, that can’t be said for everyone. Back in December 1992, in the very early hours, a man in the town of Newton was woken by the sound of the landline telephone ringing next to his bed.

Sleepily, in the darkness he grabbed the phone and put it up to his ear only, it wasn’t the phone he grabbed, but the handgun he’d left on his bedside table. For some reason, the incredibly sloppy gun owner had left his handgun there with the safety off, and when he brought it up to his ear, he accidentally pushed the trigger down in the process.

The gun owner sleepily grabbed his gun and accidentally pushing the trigger

So, for any gun owners reading, don’t leave your firearms lying around with the safety off. Unless you too want your gun to double up as the world’s worst alarm clock.

French Hiss

It wouldn’t be a Darwin Award article without at least one insane story heralding from the state of Florida! We’ve covered plenty of crazy Florida man stories before, but the next one might just be the weirdest yet!

Back in 2017, a man from Putnam County discovered a rattlesnake on his property. So, he did the responsible thing and put it in a tank with the intent to release it somewhere far away the following day; surprisingly responsible for a Florida man story. In the meantime, he told his neighbors what he’d found, who had a less responsible reaction.

They immediately decided to play with the wild snake, before one of them said he was going to kiss it on the mouth! I’m not sure what he thought was going to happen, but as he puckered up for a big, open-mouth, snaky smooch, the rattlesnake did what you’d expect it to, biting him on the tongue!

The Rattle snake bit him on the tounge

Rattlesnake venom is nasty, and in the right doses, it can cause numbness, swelling, nausea, difficulty breathing, and even death! And so, as that guy’s tongue and throat started to swell up, he was rushed to hospital and put in a protective coma state for a few days. Miraculously, he survived, so no Darwin Award! But with any luck, that taught our resident idiot a thing or two about not forcing himself on deadly animals! Consent is key.

High Life

Helium can be hilarious! Because the gas is 6 times less dense than air, sound waves travel through it much quicker, so if you inhale it, your voice sounds much higher! But helium shouldn’t be inhaled for too long, because even though it’s a gas you still need oxygen to breathe, which is a very basic science lesson that our next two award winners apparently missed out on.

Back in 2006, in Tampa Bay, Florida, two 21-year-olds spotted a huge promotional balloon 8 ft in diameter used to advertise condominiums for Lakeview at Calusa Trace. It was late and quiet, and so they decided to pull the huge balloon down and get inside it, for maximum high-voiced humor!

Both 21 year old started enjoying maximum high-voiced humor

They cut it open and shoved their top halves inside as the balloon gradually deflated, enjoying the squeaky high notes. But it didn’t last long. When our lungs are filled with helium, it means we’re not filling them with oxygen, which our organs rely on.

Depending on how much helium is inhaled, a person can lose consciousness quickly and die from a lack of oxygen, also known as asphyxiation. Which is exactly what happened. Dizzy and confused, those two idiots lost consciousness, and were only found the next morning when a local sheriff spotted the bottom halves of their bodies sticking out from the deflated balloon!

A Burning Problem

We need to respect volunteer firefighters, it’s a pretty thankless job that requires an immense amount of bravery. But being brave and being stupid aren’t mutually exclusive terms, as the Sequoyah Volunteer Fire Department in Tennessee proved back in 1999.

A supreme team of seven idiots was bored, having not received a call for help in over two months. And so, they started up a dangerous habit of using gasoline to light fires in vacant houses in a rural part of Chattanooga. They’d then rush in, put out the blaze, and pretend to be heroes.

Seven volunteer firefighters used gasoline to light fires in vacant houses

But this incredibly dangerous ruse all fell apart one day when one of them, who was spreading gasoline in the attic, didn’t realize the others had already started the blaze. The fire spread so quickly that it trapped the wannabe hero in the attic, where he met his demise!

When the real firefighters and police were called in, they realized all too quickly what had been happening. The six accomplices faced a combined total of 60 years in prison. There’s probably not enough water on earth to cool that burn!

Gunning For A Fight

Back in 1990, a would-be criminal made the big-brain decision to target a gun store located near Seattle, Washington. Did he do that early in the morning or late at night when it’d be a little quieter? No, he went for 4:40 in the afternoon, when the store was super crowded.

He waltzed in, fired a few wild shots into the air, and announced to everyone in no uncertain terms that he was robbing the joint. Being a gun store, the place attracted a certain type of patron, the type that really likes guns. And it was only after he’d fired off his shots that he noticed a uniformed policeman having coffee with the store owner.

several people being ‘held up’ pulled out their own firearms and let loose on the robber

Our criminal had also managed to miss the police car parked outside the store! All of a sudden, several people being "held up" pulled out their own firearms and let loose on the robber, including the policeman. After taking a barrage of bullets, he was put down, and amazingly no one else in the store was injured.

I hope you don't ever make any of these mistakes, which would probably earn you a place in the list of Darwin Awards winners. If you were amazed at these dumb ways people died, you might want to check out our entire Darwin Awards Series. Thanks for reading!

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