The 1996 Darwin Award
You all know about the Darwin Awards- Its an annual honor given to the
person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing himself in
the most extraordinarily stupid way. Last year's winner was the fellow
who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled over on top of him as he
was attempting to tip a free soda out of it.
And this year's nominee is...
The Arizona Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering 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 airplane crash, but is was a car.
The type of car was unidentifiiable at the scene. The lab finally
figured out what it was and what had happened.
It seems that a guy had somehow gotten a 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!
The facts as best could be determined are that the operator of the 1967
Impala hit JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 3.0 miles from
the crash site. This was established by the prominent 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-14
jocks under full afterburners, basically causing him to become
insignificant for the remainder of the event. However, the automobile
remained on the straight highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds)
before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the
tires and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface, then becoming
airborne for an additional 1.4 miles and impacting the cliff face 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 a piece of debris believed
to be a portion of the steering wheel.
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