A Brief History
On June 19, 2016, the young star Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin died horribly when he was hit by his own car in his own driveway. The 27 year old actor had exited his 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee while on his sloped driveway. The unmanned Jeep rolled back, pinning the unfortunate Yelchin against a brick pillar, squishing the actor to death. We have frequently examined the many ways that people die, with articles such as “10 More Idiotic Ways to Die,” “10 Horrible Ways to Die,” “Kings Die Young in Stupid Ways,” “10 People Who were the First to Die (in 10 Different Ways),” “10 Ways People Died in the Middle Ages,” “9 Innovative Ways to get Yourself Killed,” and even more articles concerning death. Hey, everybody dies! That is an inescapable fact that we all will face, probably the reason people are so fascinated by death. Check over our death related articles and see if we have left out any particularly interesting ways people have died. Meanwhile, live long and prosper!
1. Killed by your own car. 2016.
As described above, the 27 year old Hollywood star met an unfortunate accidental end from his own car. People getting killed while driving or riding as passengers, or as pedestrians are no strangers to death, but killed by your own car? Yet, it happens every so often, usually because the driver forgot to put the car in park or the car fell off a jack. In Yelchin’s case the family of the dead actor claims the car itself was faulty. The tragic loss of Anton Yelchin, known for such roles as playing Pavel Chekov in the latest Star Trek films, Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and Odd Thomas in the film by the same name was a highly regarded and much loved actor. He was also the voice of Clumsy Smurf in 2 animated Smurf movies. Yelchin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in the USSR (now Russia) to Jewish parents who were competitive figure skaters. The family immigrated to the United States when Anton was a baby. After his death it was revealed Yelchin had suffered from cystic fibrosis since birth.
2. Eaten by an alligator. 2018.
People have been the prey of carnivorous animals since people have existed. In the modern age we often forget that we are not immune from becoming some hungry critter’s lunch, and a variety of animals, such as big cats, bears, sharks, wolves, and members of the crocodilian branch of reptiles (alligators and crocodiles) occasionally kill and eat people. In 2018 a woman walking her dogs went missing, the dogs found with their leashes still attached pacing the water’s edge nervously. A 12 foot 6 inch long alligator was killed in the area and the woman’s severed arm was found inside. Another citizen noticed the victim walking her dogs, and then suddenly the witness did not see the woman, but did see the giant alligator, prompting a frantic 9-1-1 call. In 2016, a toddler visiting a Disney resort in Florida was snatched while wading near the bank of a lake by a large gator while the horrified father of the 2 year old jumped in to try to save his son. The gator and boy disappeared from view and the father was tragically unable to save the boy, trying to pry the gator’s mouth open with no success. (Alligators and crocodiles have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom and prying their mouth open is highly unlikely.) The boy was later found stashed underwater, a common tactic of alligators who take a fresh kill and stow it underwater to eat at a later time after the body has begun to rot and soften.
3. “Minor” Head Injury. 2009.
In 2009 while learning to ski on a beginners’ slope in Quebec, actress and wife of actor Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, suffered what appeared to be a minor head bump when she fell. Richardson did not seem to be seriously injured and refused to go to a hospital, and went to the resort’s clinic instead, checking out soon afterwards and returning to her suite. She seemed fine and claimed to be all right until about 3 hours after the accident, when her deteriorating condition caused the concerned resort manager to call an ambulance. Richardson was transported to a local (25 miles away) hospital and then taken to a larger hospital in Montreal, arriving about 6 to 7 hours after the accident. Unfortunately the 45 year old actress died of bleeding on the brain caused by her “minor” fall. Head injuries are such that what seems to be a normal run of the mill bump on the head may well be something much more serious and any head injury should be checked out by qualified medical personnel as soon as possible. Delays while the victim protests that they are fine should not be taken seriously and caution is the best policy in such cases.
4. Head blown off by bank robbers. 2003.
The robber/victim, a pizza delivery guy, walked up to a teller in an Erie, Pennsylvania bank and robbed the place, showing a bomb around his neck and chest. Captured only 15 minutes later, he frantically told police he had been kidnapped and forced to commit the robbery and that the bomb was going to go off. Before the bomb squad personnel could arrive, the bomb did indeed blow up, killing the robber. Was he truly an innocent victim or had he been “in” on the crime? Turns out he had been one of the conspirators, but when he discovered that the bomb around his neck was real (he was led to believe it would be fake) he tried to back out but was forced at gunpoint to continue. The other two conspirators were caught and convicted. Video of Brian Wells blowing up made it to the news and can be found on the internet.
5. Teen dies in mini-van after 9-1-1 call fails to get help. 2018.
We are particularly saddened by cases of children dying unnecessarily, and the case of an Ohio (Cincinnati) teenager is extra disturbing because the boy knew he was in serious trouble and desperately called 9-1-1 for help. It seems the boy had reached over the back seat of his family’s mini-van to retrieve tennis equipment when he fell over the third row back seat awkwardly, putting his body in a position where he could not get himself free and his breathing was highly impaired. His desperate 9-1-1 calls have been made public, and the officer dispatched to the school parking lot in response to the call never got out of his cruiser to check the vehicles for the boy in peril, merely driving around the parking lot. The dispatcher failed to transmit the description of the vehicle to the responding officer, compounding the problem immensely. As the police officer drove around not locating the vehicle containing the victim, the boy tragically died of suffocation. A second officer, a deputy working a traffic detail for the school, also searched the parking lot. The boy’s body was found 6 hours later. The 9-1-1 calls are heartbreaking.
6. US Military electrocuted in showers in Iraq. 2008.
Our military service men and women face a lot of dangers when deployed to dangerous places such as Iraq, and a certain amount of injuries and deaths are expected. What we do not expect is to get electrocuted when taking a shower in a military facility! When the US invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003 enormous contracts were given to contractors such as Haliburton, the company that Vice President Dick Cheney had worked for and gave Cheney a $34 million going away present when Cheney ran for Vice President in 2000. (Was this payment really a bribe paid in advance? You tell us.) In fact, the contract for Haliburton was a “no bid” non-competitive contract, raising the specter of impropriety. Shoddy workmanship by a subsidiary of Haliburton in building showers for US troops based in Iraq led to electrocutions of Americans, both military and civilian contractors. At least 94 American service men and women sought medical treatment for electrocution injuries from showers, with over a hundred more (231 total) from electrocution injuries from other shoddy workmanship done on US military facilities in Iraq. The number of Americans killed in such incidents is unclear, anywhere from at least 3 to as many as a couple dozen. So who got the contract to fix the 7000+ showers deemed unsafe? KBR, the same Haliburton subsidiary that built them! Lawsuits are still pending.
7. Dragged to death behind a pickup truck. 2007.
What a miserable way to die! Every so often you see this sort of torture-murder in a movie or even on the news, usually behind a pickup truck, but sometimes behind a horse or other vehicle, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. In a 2007 incident at a hunting camp in Washington (state) near Spokane, a 20 year old university student described as a martial arts expert had gotten drunk and was reportedly threatening people with an axe. Another man, age 45, told a 17 year old to get into the pickup and prepare to take off, while the man tied one end of a rope to the truck’s trailer hitch and the other end to the drunken martial artist. The 45 year old yelled to the 17 year old to go, which the young man did, supposedly not aware that the 20 year old was tied to the truck. Sheriff’s deputies stopped the truck after receiving calls from the driver about a man with an axe chasing him down the road and another call from a witness reporting a pickup truck dragging a man. The 20 year old was dead at the scene after being dragged over the rough country roads. In an equally sickening incident in 1998, a black man, age 39, accepted a ride from 3 white men (ages 23, 24 and 31) in Jasper, Texas, not knowing the 3 White men were White Supremacists. The White guys took James Byrd, Jr. out to a remote area and beat him severely, urinating and defecating on the unfortunate man before chaining the victim’s ankles to the back of the pickup truck. The murderers then dragged the doomed man over 3 miles on an asphalt road, killing him. Byrd probably died about half-way into his death ride when his head and arm were severed when he hit a culvert. At least one of the murderers has been executed since the incident.
8. Decapitated by snapped cable on cell phone tower. 2014.
In Kentucky, a man working 240 feet up a cell phone tower was killed when a cable snapped, decapitating him and severing one of his arms. The poor man was left hanging there for over 5 hours while other workers devised a way to get his body down from the tower. Apparently a heavy antenna had fallen on the cable, causing the cable to snap. Wire cables under a lot of tension, whether winching something, supporting a tower of some sort, or those on a ship can be deadly when they snap, whipping around at high velocity and capable of causing death, which they occasionally do. Said the local sheriff on the scene, “Not too many people are used to seeing that.” Geez, we hope not! In another type of cable snapping incident, a Newfoundland man was killed when a cable lifting a minivan snapped, striking the Newfie in the head. Earnest Drake, age 55, had been winching the minivan onto a flat bed truck when the tow strap broke, causing the wire cable to whip at high speed.
9. Killed by pet hippopotamus. 2011.
Hippos are big, as much as 3 or 4 tons, and they have a gigantic gaping mouth with foot long teeth. Worse than that, they are highly territorial and aggressive, and have been known to kill many humans, sometimes biting a canoe in half before chomping down on their hapless victim. But your own pet hippo? A South African man in 2011 found out the hard way that having a 6 year old hippopotamus as a pet could be a dangerous thing. The 40 year old Army major had been warned repeatedly that his pet, Humphrey, was too dangerous to keep domesticated. The 3000 pound river horse had been adopted as a baby, and the owner, Marius Els, had been known to ride the blumpous beast. A warning sign that went unheeded was when Humphrey chased a canoe with a man and his grandson earlier in 2011 and the hippo had killed some of the farmer’s calves. Els was found dead in the nearby river with giant tooth holes in his body. In a happier incident with a hippo, a travel guide on the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls, age 27 in 1996, was guiding a group of tourists in canoes when a bull hippo attacked, knocking a canoe into the air and launching an apprentice guide into the water. The head guide, Paul Templer, led his tourists to a group of rocks and went into the water to retrieve his apprentice guide. Suddenly, the world went dark for Templer as the giant mammal swallowed the upper half of the guide’s body! Incredibly, Templer was eventually spit out although he was again bitten by the monster. Paul suffered enormous wounds but lived to tell the harrowing tale. A second apprentice guide paddled out to Templer when he was spit out a second time, pulling the injured man into the canoe. Gaping wounds included an exposed lung, but frantic first aid saved the guide’s life. Told that his arms and a leg were beyond repair and had to be amputated, Templer was relieved to only lose one arm. Templer returned to work as a river guide once he recovered.
10. Killed ziplining into a wrestling ring. 1999.
At a World Wrestling Federation (now called WWE) event, professional wrestler Owen Hart, known as “The Blue Blazer” was making a dramatic entrance to the ring via a zip line on a wire at the Kansas City, Missouri Kemper Arena. Attended by 16,000 live fans, the event was also shown around the world on pay per view television. Luckily the television customers did not see the horrifying event as the Canadian wrestler either fell or the cable broke and he slammed into the side of the ring, hitting his head on a turnbuckle, killing him. Hart was immediately unresponsive and was administered CPR until removed by an ambulance to a hospital where he was declared dead. Meanwhile, the ring announcer told the fans that the event was not scripted, and the wrestler was actually hurt badly. Boxers and MMA fighters have been known to get killed from injuries while fighting, but a professional wrestler dying in the ring is most unusual, although serious injuries do occur, even crippling ones. Owen Hart was 33 years old and the younger brother of Bret Hart, also a wrestler and known as “The Hit Man.” The tragic accident happened about 75 minutes after the start of the event.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you consider to have been the most unusual death in history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
ShandonPress. Unusual Deaths: A Selection Of The World’s Most Bizarre Deaths. ShandonPress; PublishDrive edition, 2016.
Summer, Jack. DEATH By BANANA: And 250 Other Weird Ways To Die. Monday Books, 2015.