A Brief History
On June 2, 1983, Air Canada flight 797 had an accidental fire. So far, not freaky. When the airliner made an emergency landing, 90 seconds after the doors opened the inrush of air caused a “flashover” fire, killing 23 people, a freak accident. Every so often something seemingly normal goes horribly wrong. Here we list 10 of those occasions out of the millions that have occurred, each of which resulted in someone’s death.
10. Air Canada Flight 797, 1983.
As you read above, a fire bad enough to cause the airliner to make an emergency landing, but as of then not bad enough to kill anybody was made suddenly and horribly worse by the opening of the doors. The McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 was a common intra-continental jetliner, with over 2400 of them (and their rebadged twins made by other companies) made so this incident was a big shock, resulting in new safety and fire procedures.
9. John Bowen, 1979.
Mistake number 1, attending a Jets football game at Shea Stadium. Mistake number 2, staying in his seat during the half-time show. In this case, the show was a demonstration of a remote control 40 pound flying lawn mower (we do not make this stuff up!) which was not under control after all, and struck the New Hampshire resident causing head injuries that he died of 4 days later. Should have gone to a Patriot’s game…
8. Humberto Hernandez, 2007.
Mr. Hernandez proved that walking is an unsafe form of transportation as he was walking on a sidewalk in Oakland when a car struck a fire hydrant, breaking it free. The water pressure sent the hydrant flying right into Humberto’s face, killing him.
7. Jon Desborough, 1999.
A gym teacher at Liverpool College, Jon was hustling out to retrieve a javelin stuck in the ground after a throw, tripped and fell into the (blunt) end of the javelin causing the shaft to penetrate his eye socket and skewer his brain, killing him.
6. Gary Hoy, 1993.
This candidate for the What Was I Thinking? Award was a Toronto lawyer that was demonstrating the unbreakable-ness of a skyscraper window by jumping into it. He had done this before with no ill effect, but this time the window was knocked out of its frame (but did not break!) causing the window and the hapless lawyer to plummet 24 floors to their mutual demise.
5. Isadora Duncan, 1927.
In one of her less graceful moves, this famous dancer was riding in the back of an open car when her excessively long scarf got caught up in the back wheel, breaking her neck and killing her.
4. Hans Steininger, 1567.
In a classic case of being punished for deviating from one’s routine, Hans failed to roll up his 4.5 foot beard and tuck it in its normal pouch. Walking along with the floor scraping chin whiskers, he tripped over his own beard and broke his neck, killing himself. At the time of this freak accident, Hans was the burgomaster of Braunau, Austria.
3. Clement Vallandingham, 1871.
Proving that sometimes lawyers take things a little too far, Clement was defending a man in court on a murder charge. While demonstrating how the murder victim may have accidentally shot himself while drawing a pistol from a kneeling position while standing up, Vallandingham proved the possibility by accidentally shooting and killing himself. His lucky client was acquitted, but we do not know if he still had to pay his lawyer’s fee.
2. David Grundman, 1982.
Sometimes when you do not respect Mother Nature, she does not respect you! Grundman was engaged in the decidedly non-eco-friendly activity of shooting a giant Saguaro cactus from close range with his shotgun. When the 26 foot tall cactus fell, it crushed Grundman, killing him.
1. Aeschylus, 455 BC.
A Greek playwright famous for writing tragedies (how apropos!), Aeschylus was killed when an eagle dropped a tortoise on his head from high altitude. In that neck of the woods it is common for eagles to drop turtles onto rocks to break their shells open, and in this case Aeschylus’s head must have looked like a rock. Cracked fact: Aeschylus was keeping to the outdoors to avoid a prophecy that he would be killed by a falling object.
Question for students (and subscribers): Which ones would you add? (You know this list will get a sequel!) Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Sieveking, Paul, Ian Simmons, and Val Stevenson. Strange deaths: More than 375 freakish fatalites. Barnes & Noble, 2000.