Darwin Awards 1996

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The Darwin Awards is an annual honour given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by getting themselves killed in the most spectacular fashion. The winner from 1995 was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled over onto him as he was attempting to tip a free drink out of it.

The Darwin Award winner for 1996 is:

The Arizona Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smouldering metal embedded into the side of a cliff rising above the road at the apex of a curve. The wreckage resembled the site of an aeroplane crash, but it was a car. The type of car was unidentifiable at the scene. The lab finally figured out what it was and what had happened.

It seems that a guy had somehow got hold of a JATO unit "Jet Assisted Take Off" (actually a solid fuel rocket) that is used to give heavy military transport planes an extra "push" for taking off from short airfields. He had driven his Chevy Impala out into the desert and found a long, straight stretch of road. Then he attached the JATO unit to his car, jumped in, got up some speed and fired off the JATO!

Facts as best as could be determined are that the operator of the 1967 Impala hit JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 3 miles from the crash site. This was established by the prominently scorched and melted asphalt at that location. The JATO, if operating properly, would have reached maximum thrust within 5 seconds, causing the Chevy to reach speeds well in excess of 350 mph and continuing at full power for an additional 20-25 seconds. The driver, soon to be pilot, most likely would have experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog-fighting F-18 jocks under full afterburners, basically causing him to become insignificant for the rest of the event.

However, the vehicle remained on the straight highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the tyres and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface. He then became airborne for an additional 1.4 miles and impacted the cliff at a height of 125 feet leaving a blackened crater 3 feet deep in the rock. Most of the driver's remains were not recoverable; however, small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater and fingernail and bone shards were removed from the steering wheel.


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