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2001 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random

 
 
Workin' on the Railroad  
2001 Personal Account

(February 2001, Virginia) Several years ago a brand new locomotive was brought in for repair after being involved in an accident. While the shop was fixing the fuel tank, a significant amount of diesel fuel was spilled on the floor. The foreman assigned two shop laborers to clean up the fuel.

As they worked, the laborers began to argue about the flammability of diesel. One claimed to have seen a demonstration on the David Letterman Show the previous night, in which a science teacher extinguished Mr. Letterman's cigar in a jar of diesel fuel.

The worker decided to demonstrate this principle to his coworker, but he was unable to find a match. So he climbed into the cab of the locomotive and retrieved a road flare. He struck the flare and threw it into the spilled fuel.

Unfortunately for all concerned, road flares burn much hotter than cigars, and the spill was not deep enough to submerge the flare. The fuel ignited quite easily. The workers escaped injury, but the locomotive was a total loss, and the repair facility suffered extensive damage.

Remember to use common sense when duplicating feats from TV, kids!

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Submitted by: Carl T. Hand

John Davis says, "Flares contain both fuel and an oxidizer thus will burn when immersed in liquid. A match or a cigar contains only fuel, and can indeed be extinguished by dunking it in diesel fuel -- but not gasoline, because of it's greater volatility."

John Neighbour adds, "You just CANNOT ignite petroleum vapours with a lighted cigarette. Trust me on this one. I was part of the London Fire Brigade Fire Investigation Unit, and am presently a forensic fire investigator for Hannaford Forensic Services in London."

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