|The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers.|
Bicycle Chain of Accidents
(2000) This account is a testament to the intelligence teenagers, who are prone to recklessness--a fact I should have borne in mind. Six years ago, on a Sunday afternoon, our gang of five had taken it into our brains that, since we live near the sea, it would be fun to play on the cliffs.
We took turns riding our bikes up to the cliff edge and braking at the last possible moment, the object being a typical competition between young males. The drop to the water was over one hundred feet. After one boy almost flew off the cliff, we made it 'safer' by tying rope around our waists, attached to separate pegs anchored securely in the ground. This, we thought, would avert trouble.
One boy's bike squeaked terribly when he braked, and it was getting on everyone's nerves. So he took care of the squeak in an ingenious way: he oiled the brakes. Some of you might already realise that this presents another problem, but we didn't see it.
When it was his turn, he rode up to the cliff with the ironic cry, "Watch this!" Indeed we did watch. We watched him apply the brakes, we watched his expression change to terror, and we watched him disappear from sight as he sailed over the cliff.
The rope did its job, and halted his descent. But his rope was longer than the others, and suffered the strain of 60 feet of falling teenager, as did the waist around which the rope was tied. The impact of stopping broke several ribs and almost cleaved him in two. Not surprisingly, he fainted.
At the top of the cliff, the four remaining kids telephoned for help, but the cliff was so remote that we couldn't get through. Instead of running for help, we decided to winch him up ourselves. We set about digging up the peg he was attached to. When it finally came free, there was only one person holding it, and he was pulled over the cliff by the weight of the first boy.
Sensibly, he still had his harness on, but the 45-foot drop he endured mearly knocked this boy out. Meanwhile, the extra 45 feet of rope let the first boy plunge into the ocean, where he unfortunately drowned.
The last three boys on the cliff summoned help from the Coast Guard. Half an hour later, a large Sea King helicopter attempted to lift the dangling boy to safety. By this point, the knot that tied the rope around the boy's waist had come loose, and he was hanging on for dear life.
Whirling helicopter blades build up a massive amount of static electricity as they beat against the air. Each helicopter therefore carries a cable to earth itself after a flight. As that cable approached the boy, he grabbed for it, heedless of people shouting warnings from the helicopter. When he did grab ahold of the cable, the electric shock blew him against the cliff, and he fell into the sea.
Fortunately he did not drown. He was airlifted to hospital, where he made a full recovery.
Six years later, I still have the scar on my hand where I touched that earthing cable. I owe my life to the work of the Coast Guard that day. Thank you, Coast Guard, for helping idiots like me stay alive long enough to tell the story to other idiots.
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