DARWIN AWARDS 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 south-eastern 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. "Even their wives could not even find their flesh because the blast destroyed everything," the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper reported. ** A fisherman in Kiev 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 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. ** China Post reported that a 23-year-old Pingtung man died after eating fish he poisoned in a nearby ditch. Three days of diarrhoea and vomiting led to his demise after he ate fish he caught by pouring toxic chemicals in the water at the suggestion of friends. Drinking oneself to death need not be a long lingering process. Allan, a 33-year-old computer technician, showed his competitive spirit by dying of competitive spirits. A Sydney, Australia hotel bar held a drinking competition, known as Feral Friday, with a 100-minute time limit and a sliding point scale ranging from 1 point for beer to 8 points for hard liquor. Allan stood and cheered his winning total of 236, (winners never quit!) which had also netted him the literally staggering blood alcohol level of .353 grams of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, 7 times greater than Australia's legal driving limit of 0.05%. After several trips to the usual temple of overindulgence, the bathroom, Allan was helped back to his workplace to sleep it off, a condition that became permanent. A forensic pharmacologist estimated that after downing 34 beers, 4 bourbons, and 17 shots of tequila within 1 hour and 40 minutes, his blood alcohol level would have been 0.41 to 0.43%, but Allan had vomited several times after the drinking stopped. The cost paid by Allan was much higher than that of the hotel, which was fined the equivalent of $13,100 US dollars for not intervening. It is not known whether Allan required any further embalming.** A man known for his snake catching and charming skills was called to a neighbor's home. They needed an emergency exorcism of a python, which had invaded their dwelling. Hie, 55, rushed into the house in the northern provoke of Uttaradit, and emerged victorious with the snake held aloft in a burlap sack. He was walking home with the snake, when villagers ran into him and asked to see the python. He pulled the snake from the sack and boldly wrapped it around his neck. The wild python, a five-foot-long coil of solid muscle, constricted around him and began to strangle him. He screamed for help vainly, for the petrified villagers were afraid to approach the serpent. Within minutes, Hie fell to the ground dead. Local policemen forcibly unwrapped the snake from his neck and placed it in captivity.** A bus full of excited children can drive anyone to the brink of madness. Perhaps the actions of one bus driver can be explained by his proximity to a herd of shrieking kids.Xu, 41, was one of 13 tour drivers hired to escort a school tour through the Shanghai World Animals Park. His bus unexpectedly broke down as the convoy passed through a fenced tiger enclosure. You can imagine the hubbub this would cause among a group of students on a wild animal adventure. Needless to say, the park rules clearly forbid leaving the safety of the vehicle. I can imagine a circumstance in which such a breakdown would be cause to panic. For instance, if you sneak into the park just before it closes in a convertible with a flimsy cloth covering, and you are accompanied by a date who is chomping rare steak, then waiting in the vehicle for rescue from the tigers would not be an attractive option. But a bus that is part of a convoy of school children is not in imminent danger of being abandoned to the tigers. Xu must have realized that help would come swiftly.But instead of waiting inside, besieged by a clamor of children, he climbed out of the bus and began to re-attach the tow rope. A park manager witnessed the deadly incident. The children watched in horror while tigers savagely attacked their driver. Their screams summoned a nearby trainer, who drove the tigers from their victim, but it was too late to save Xu from the deadly effects of bites to his neck.As a consolation prize, his death provided a memorable example to the children of the danger of stupidity in action.** A Houston man earned a succinct lesson in gun safety when he played Russian roulette with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Rashaad, nineteen, was visiting friends when he announced his intention to play the deadly game. He apparently did not realize that a semiautomatic pistol, unlike a revolver, automatically inserts a cartridge into the firing chamber when the gun is cocked. His chance of winning a round of Russian roulette was zero, as he quickly discovered.** One fateful afternoon, 55-year-old Marko retreated to his semi-detached workshop to make himself a tool for chimney cleaning. The chimney was too high for a simple broom to work, but if he could attach a brush to a chain and then weigh it down with something, that would do the trick. But what could he use as a weight? He happened to have the perfect object. It was heavy, yet compact. And best of all, it was made of metal, so he could weld it to the chain. He must have somehow overlooked the fact that it was also a hand grenade and was filled with explosive material. Marko turned on his welding apparatus and began to create an arc between the chain and the grenade. As the metal heated up, the grenade exploded. The force of the explosion killed poor Marko instantly, blasting shrapnel through the walls of the shed and shattering the windshield of a Mercedes parked outside. Marko's chimney was untouched, however** Darren's death was a mystery. The 33-year-old was found slumped in the hallway of his house, bleeding from stab wounds to his chest. Police initially assumed that an assailant had attacked him, but they could find no supporting evidence. A year later, the inquest revealed why Darren can stake his claim to a place among the winners of the Darwin Award. Darren had called a friend, but minutes after he hung up, rang back to ask for an ambulance. The front door was ajar, and Darren was found lying near a bloodstained lock-knife he had purchased whilst on holiday in Spain. Forensics investigators saw no indication of a struggle, and the coroner reported that the stab wounds seemed to be self-inflicted. However, Darren had shown no suicidal tendencies. His wife, who was on holiday at the time of the incident, cleared up the mystery, and revealed why our subject will go down in history as a Darwin Award winner. As she was leaving for the holiday, she remembered Darren wondering whether his new jacket was 'stab-proof'. That's right. Darren decided to find out if his jacket could withstand a knife attack. Did he choose to test his jacket while it was draped over the back of a chair? No, our man thought that the best approach would be to wear the garment and stab himself. Sadly, his choice of armor proved less resistant to a sharp blade than he had hoped. The coroner reached a verdict of accidental death by 'misadventure'** When Peraldo found sticks of old dynamite in an abandoned stable on the hill above his vineyard, he decided to bury the problem. Some might think that burying unstable dynamite would be...unwise. But not Peraldo, a 67-year-old retired entrepreneur, who had been an explosives expert in the army. He had also worked as a licensed "fuochino" in charge of explosives at construction sites prior to his retirement. He knew the ways of things that go boom. This dynamite had been sitting around for some time, decaying and sweating highly unstable nitroglycerin. Peraldo carefully placed the high explosives in a hole thirty meters away from the stable, and gently covered them with loose earth. Apparently the mound was a little too high to be aesthetically attractive, so Peraldo began patting it down with his hands... The massive blast rocked the entire town of Chiavenna. Police rushed to the vineyard to investigate. Peraldo was found torn to shreds, but miraculously, still alive and able to explain what had happened before he died from internal injuries.** This story was told at a symposium dinner, by two Austrian pathologists who work together in Germany. A deceased male was brought to them for a post mortem. He had suffered severe head trauma. According to police reports, the man wanted to see how a German World War II hand grenade was constructed. His curiosity led him to clamp the grenade in a vise, and cut a thin band around the center with a circular saw, so that he would be able to crack open the two halves. Unfortunately, the man cut a little too deep, and detonated the grenade. The pathologists stated that the man had very little brain material when he was brought to them; however, they were not sure if that was a result of the explosion!** A retired engineer booby-trapped his home with the intention of killing his estranged family, but died himself after inadvertently triggering one of his own devices. At first, police assumed that the 79-year-old had committed suicide, as he was found alone with a bullet wound in his neck. Then a detective missed a bullet by inches when he opened a booby-trapped wooden chest. Police beat a hasty retreat from the property and called in military experts. They deciphered an enigmatic series of scribbled clues to locate 19 death traps in walls, ceilings, and household objects. A pile of booby-trapped dinner plates was revealed by the clue, "Cheaper by the Dozen," a reference to a film in which a child throws a plate at someone's head. Police speculate that the the notes were intended to assist his failing memory. Other traps included numerous concealed shotguns triggered by threads, and an exploding crate of beer set to detonate once a certain number of bottles were rmoved. It took three weeks to crack 19 of the 20 clues, and experts were forced to admit defeat on the final note: "The 12 Apostles are ready to work on the pebbles." Said one, "We have never come across anything like it before. It was all fiendishly clever." True to form, the "fiendishly clever" but careless Darwin Award winner was described by neighbors as a taciturn but harmless man who enjoyed puttering in his garage. But relatives say he never forgave his wife for divorcing him twenty years before. Police believe he bagan installing the traps for four years, after losing a lengthy battle to keep his home.** Piling up live artillery is grueling work, so it makes perfect sense that a group of soldiers would take a cigarette break at lunchtime. The warehouse was filled with 92,000 tons of ammunition -- until the soldiers lit up their ciggies and inhaled deeply, ignoring warnings that smoking can cause cancer. They flicked the butts away and went back to work. The glowing embers of the tobacco butts acted like slow fuses, which started a small fire that nobody noticed until it ignited a chain reaction of massive explosions. The explosions lasted for a week, tossing debris as far as 25 miles away, destroying buildings in a two-mile radius, and forcing the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents. Red-hot shrapnel set off additional fires in nearby towns and ruptured a minor gas pipeline. Total damage from the smoke break was estimated at $750 million. Miraculously, only one of the soldiers at the arsenal died in the disaster. Six soldiers were charged with "grossly neglecting the fire safety rules and smoking on the ammunition site." ** The city of Ambon was on edge. Just two days before, a bomb hidden in a cookie tin, disguised with two bottles of beer and some peanuts, had exploded and wounded five people. So police took extra precautions when a worried man alerted them to a suspicious black plastic bag that had been hung on the handle of his motorbike while it was parked outside an open market. The police cleared the area, moved the bag to the middle of the street, and waited for the bomb squad to arrive. Alarmingly, this bag also contained a cookie tin. The police set up a safety cordon 20 meters away from the bag, and warned people to stay back. But after 25 minutes spent waiting for the bomb squad, curiosity got the best of Willem, a 45-year-old fish vendor, and a number of other onlookers. They wanted to get a closer look, see what else was in the bag. What could happen? What indeed. As they approached the bomb, it exploded, killing Willem and injuring 16 others... ** 50cc scooters are a common site on Japan's busy streets. They are meant for one rider and one rider alone. There is a law against riding double and violators of this law are subject to a fine. Whether it was an attempt to avoid the law, save transportation costs, or just a show of bravado, three fifteen year old boys decided to ride triple -- yes, triple -- on a scooter. Their ability to accomplish this feat on a small scooter proves that what they lacked in intelligence they more than made up for in dexterity and adventurous spirit. Not one of them possessed a license to drive any vehicle whatsoever, nor did any have the sense to wear a helmet, gloves or any form of protective riding gear. A fifty-two year old driver quickly ended the boys' adventure with the front end of his car. A moment later the boys were airborne at roughly the same speed they were traveling on the scooter, which can reach speeds in excess of 50km per hour. Two of the boys flew into oncoming traffic and were run over by not one but two consecutive cars. All three suffered severe trauma and were pronounced 'Darwin eligible candidates' at the scene of the accident. The police had trouble determining which one of the boys was in control of the scooter at the time of the fatal crash, but we all know that it was the Hands of Stupidity placed firmly on the handlebars and throttle.** A Vermont native found himself in a difficult position yesterday while touring the Eagle's Rock African Safari Zoo with a group of thespians from St. Petersburg, Russia. Ronald went to extremes to demonstrate the power of Crazy Glue, one of America's many marvels, to the Russians. To prove the effectiveness of Crazy Glue, he rubbed several ounces of the adhesive onto the palms of his hands and jokingly placed them on the buttocks of a passing rhino. The rhinoceros, a resident of the zoo for the thirteen years, was not initially startled, as it has been part of the petting exhibit since its arrival as a baby. However, once it became aware of being involuntarily stuck to Ronald, it began to panic and charge wildly about the petting area with Ronald as an unwitting passenger. "Sally the Rhino hadn't been feeling well. She was constipated, and had just been given a laxative when the American played his juvenile prank, " said caretaker James Douglass. During Sally's tirade, a shed wall was gored, two fences destroyed, and a number of small animals escaped. Three pygmy goats and one duck were stomped to death. During the stampede and subsequent capture, Sally began to feel the effects of the laxative, showering Ronald repeatedly with over 30 gallons of rhinoceros diarrhoea. A team of medics and zoo caretakers were needed to remove his hands from Sally's buttocks. "It was tricky. We had to calm her down while shielding our faces from the pelting rhino dung. I guess you could say that Ronald was in it up to his neck. Once she was under control, three people with shovels were working to keep an air passage open for him. We were eventually able to tranquilize Sally and apply a solvent to remove his hands from her rear," said Douglass. "I don't think he'll be playing with Crazy Glue for awhile." Meanwhile, the amused Russians were impressed with the power of the adhesive. "I'm going to buy some for my children, but of course they can't take it to the zoo," commented Vladimir Zolnikov, leader of the troupe. Ronald did not die, nor was there any reproductive injury, so he can only qualify for a Darwin Award if you are persuaded by the fact that nobody would date a man who smelled of rhino dung.** Berlin Zoo - Friedrich Riesfeldt fed his constipated elephant, Stefan, 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally let fly -- and suffocated the keeper under 200 pounds of poop! Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the relieved beast unloaded on him like a dump truck full of mud. "The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground, where he struck his head on a rock and lay unconscious as the elephant continued to evacuate his bowels on top of him," said flabbergasted Berlin police detective Erik Dern. "With no one there to help him, he lay under all that dung for at least an hour before a watchman came along, and during that time he suffocated."It seems to be just one of those freak accidents that can happen.** "In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake. But I was only trying to save the gerbil," Eric Tomaszewski told the bemused doctors in the Severe Burns Unit of Salt Lake City Hospital. Tomaszewski and his homosexual partner, Andrew "Kiki" Farnum, had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong. "I pushed a cardboard toilet paper tube up his rectum and slipped Hamish, our gerbil, in," he explained. "As usual, Kiki shouted out 'Armageddon,' my cue that he'd had reached nirvana, so to speak. I tried to retrieve Hamish but he simply would not come out, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him." At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman desribed what happened next."The match ignited a pocket of intestinal methane gas in Kiki's colon. Flames shot out the tube, ignited Mr. Tomaszewski's hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to the gerbil's fur and whiskers, causing it to scurry further up Kiki's colon, which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestine, propelling the rodent out of the cardboard tube like a cannonball."Tomaszewski suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the gerbil, while Farnum suffered first and second degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract. Sadly, Hamish the gerbil did not survive the incident. ** A fellow from Michigan buys himself a brand-new $30,000 Jeep Grand Cherokee for Christmas. He goes down to his favorite bar and celebrates by tossing down a few too many brews with his buddies. In one of those male-bonding rituals, five of them decide to take his new vehicle for a test drive on a duck hunting expedition. They load up the Jeep with the dog, the guns, the decoys, and the beer, and head out to a nearby lake.Now, it's the dead of winter, and of course the lake is frozen, so they need to make a hole in the ice to create a natural landing area for the ducks and decoys. It is common practice in Michigan to drive your vehicle out onto the frozen lake, and it is also common (if slightly illegal) to make a hole in the ice using dynamite. Our fellows have nothing to worry about on that score, because one member of the party works for a construction team, and happens to have brought some dynamite along. The stick has a short 20-second fuse. The group is ready for some action. They're all set up. Their shotguns are loaded with duck pellets, and they have beer, warm clothes and a hunting dog. Still chugging down a seemingly bottomless supply of six-packs, the group considers how to safely dynamite a hole through the ice. One of these rocket scientists points out that the dynamite should explode at a location far from where they are standing. Another notes the risk of slipping on the ice when running away from a burning fuse. So they eventually settle on a plan to light the fuse and throw the dynamite out onto the ice.There is a bit of contention over who has the best throwing arm, and eventually the owner of the Jeep wins that honour. Once that question is settled, he walks about 20 feet further out onto the ice and holds the stick of dynamite at the ready while one of his companions lights the fuse with a Zippo. As soon as he hears the fuse sizzle, he hurls it across the ice at a great velocity and runs in the other direction. Unfortunately, a member of another species spots his master's arm motions and comes to an instinctive decision. The dog: a trained Black Labrador, born and bred for retrieving, especially things thrown by his owner. As soon as the stick leaves his hand, the dog sprints across the ice, hell-bent on wrapping his jaws around the enticing stick-shaped object. Five frantic fellows immediately begin hollering at the dog, trying to get him to stop chasing the dynamite. Their cries fall on deaf ears. Before you know it, the retriever is headed back to his owner, proudly carrying the stick of dynamite with the burning 20-second fuse. The group continues to yell and wave their arms while the happy dog trots towards them. In a desperate act, its master grabs his shotgun and fires at his own dog. The gun is loaded with duck shot, and confuses the dog more than it hurts him. Bewildered, he continues towards his master, who shoots at man's best friend again. Finally comprehending that his owner has become insane, the dog runs for cover with his tail between his legs. And the nearest cover is right under the brand-new Jeep Grand Cherokee. Boom! The dog and the Jeep are blown to bits, and sink to the bottom of the lake, leaving a large ice hole in their wake. The stranded men stand staring at the water with stupid looks on their faces, and the owner of the Jeep is left to explain the misadventure to his insurance company. Needless to say, they determined that sinking a vehicle in a lake by illegal use of explosives is not covered under their policy, and the owner is still making $400 monthly payments on his brand-new Jeep at the bottom of the lake.** Larry Walters of Los Angeles is one of the few to contend for the Darwin Awards and live to tell the tale. "I have fulfilled my 20-year dream," said Walters, a former truck driver for a company that makes TV commercials. "I'm staying on the ground. I've proved the thing works."Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. But fates conspired to keep him from his dream. He joined the Air Force, but his poor eyesight disqualified him from the job of pilot. After he was discharged from the military, he sat in his backyard watching jets fly overhead. He hatched his weather balloon scheme while sitting outside in his "extremely comfortable" Sears lawnchair. He purchased 45 weather balloons from an Army-Navy surplus store, tied them to his tethered lawnchair dubbed the Inspiration I, and filled the 4' diameter balloons with helium. Then he strapped himself into his lawnchair with some sandwiches, Miller Lite, and a pellet gun. He figured he would pop a few of the many balloons when it was time to descend. Larry's plan was to sever the anchor and lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard, where he would enjoy a few hours of flight before coming back down. But things didn't work out quite as Larry planned. When his friends cut the cord anchoring the lawnchair to his Jeep, he did not float lazily up to 30 feet. Instead, he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon, pulled by the lift of 42 helium balloons holding 33 cubic feet of helium each. He didn't level off at 100 feet, nor did he level off at 1000 feet. After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 16,000 feet. At that height he felt he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting cold and frightened with his beer and sandwiches, for more than 14 hours. He crossed the primary approach corridor of LAX, where Trans World Airlines and Delta Airlines pilots radioed in reports of the strange sight. Eventually he gathered the nerve to shoot a few balloons, and slowly descended. The hanging tethers tangled and caught in a power line, blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes. Larry climbed to safety, where he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked him why he had done it. Larry replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around." The Federal Aviation Administration was not amused. Safety Inspector Neal Savoy said, "We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, a charge will be filed."