Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.

1996 Darwin Awards

Honoring Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool--by removing themselves from it in the most spectacular way possible.

Hungry Python Kills Owner
1996 Darwin Award Winner
Unconfirmed by Darwin

(11 October 1996, New York) A teenager was crushed to death by his pet python after he had failed to keep the snake properly fed, police reported. Grant Williams, 19, was found unconscious in a pool of blood, the life practically squeezed out of him by a 12ft Burmese python named Damien, which was still wrapped over his body. The snake had been given nothing more than a single dead chicken in the past week and may have been crazed by hunger.

Mr Williams was found in the hallway. He may have been trying to escape the flat to summon help. Medical orderlies summoned the strength ­ of body and of mind ­ to lift the 45lb, 5in-thick python off Mr Williams and hurl it into an adjacent room, but the snake lover died in hospital. At the time of the attack, Mr Williams was preparing to feed Damien a live chicken. It is possible that the python, peckish, opted for the larger prey. When on the brink of a kill, the Burmese python (Molorus bivattatus) can move with deadly speed, and there are few creatures able to escape its grasp.

Mr Williams may have suspected that his familiarity with Damien placed him above danger, but a hungry python does not quibble about such niceties. Captain Thomas Kelly, from the 46th precinct, said: "It looks accidental." Mr Williams and his brother kept a number of snakes, many uncaged, in their Bronx flat. The dead man's mother, Carmelita Williams, said that she had tried to persuade her son to abandon his hobby. "I begged him to get rid of the python," she said, weeping. "I even threatened to call the police."

Damien was last night caged at an animal control centre, after being fed. Its fate is uncertain.

Skepticism from Pete Butler:
I'm no snake expert, just a general information sponge, but I find it hard to believe that the snake was hunger-crazed. Reptiles are cold-blooded and have a slow metabolism. A meal of one chicken a week sounds about right for this snake. The "pool of his own blood" and "life crushed out of him" lines are misleading. It's a myth that constrictors kill their prey by crushing. Actually they suffocate their prey by constricting around the chest. I suspect the "pool of blood" was smaller than we're led to imagine. Still, letting a TWELVE FOOT BLOODY PYTHON roam free in your home definitely makes you a Darwin candidtate.

Additional data from Todd Cook
Herpetologists speculate that that the young man forgot to wash the chicken smell from his hands. The "pool of blood" could have been from the grip of the snake's mouth. Burmese python have sharp teeth, but the blood they would draw is usually incidental. They kill by constriction, but if the prey resists -- as I am sure the young man did -- the snake will tighten its grip with its mouth. By the way, one animal handler is sufficient for 6' of python, but an extra attendant is required for every additonal 3' of snake. Thus, there should have been three people handling this snake, and it should have been kept in a designated room.

Harry says " The story appeared in the New York Daily News the day after it happened. Also I happened to know this young man and was well aware of the huge snakes he kept in his home. The version of the story that i know to be true was that he fell asleep and the snake coiled itself around him for warmth. By the time he awoke it was too late".

What do you think? Tell us on the Forum.

Submitted by the Curmudgeon

Reference: Times of London, New York Times, LA Times

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