The Darwin Awards 2006

The Darwin Awards originated as a series of emails which were passed around the internet in the early 1990s. They mixed real deaths and urban myths and celebrated people that had, as a result of their own stupidity, removed themselves from the gene pool. As this article on Snopes explains, websites then sprang up to chronicle these tales. Most of them faded away but darwinawards.com remains and takes it upon itself to issue a new set of awards each year.

The 2006 winners include a man who died trying to disassemble a rocket propelled grenade with a sledgehammer, a pastor who drowned while attempting to walk on water to demonstrate the power of faith and a couple who asphyxiated themselves by climbing into an eight foot helium balloon.

My all-time favourite Darwin Award contender is "Lawnchair" Larry Walters, who received an honourable mention for his 1982 flight in his patio chair. Larry attached 45 helium-filled weather balloons to his chair, donned a helmet and parachute, armed himself with a pellet gun to shoot the balloons when he wanted to come down and took off from his California garden.

Larry also had a CB radio, a camera, sandwiches and some soft drinks with him. His chair was tethered to the bumper of his Jeep and he intended to reach a height of 100 feet. However, when his 'ground crew' cut the first tether, the second one broke unexpectedly, sending Larry into the air at around 1,000 feet per minute.

Too scared to shoot out any of the balloons in case he unbalanced his chair, Larry soared to 16,000 feet and drifted into the flight path of nearby Long Beach airport. Pilots reported his flight to ground control.

Eventually Larry began to shoot out balloons and slowly descended, eventually becoming entangled in power lines and cutting power to Long Beach for 20 minutes. He was arrested on landing. When asked by a reporter why he had done it, Larry replied: "A man can't just sit around."

You can hear a recording of Larry's CB conversations during his flight at Mark Barry's site.