The Darwin Awards

1999 Darwin Awards

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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.

Up In Smoke
1999 Darwin Award Winner Confirmed True by Darwin

(5 March 1999, England) Christopher Piper arrived at his Fleet, Hampshire home on Friday night with a case of beer. "He drank a quantity of the beer," his wife Jaqueline, said, "and then started smoking." Was he suicidal or simply stupid?

His drinking binge progressed. At some stage of inebriation, Jaqueline observed him clumsily attempting to fill his butane lighter, spilling the flammable liquid on his jumper. She warned him that he was being silly, and she didn't mean amusing. He paid her little heed.

The 35-year-old man flicked his lighter experimentally, then gave in to his pyromaniac tendencies, and began trying to burn his trousers. As a side effect, he set his fuel-soaked jumper ablaze, turning into a fireball in his own living room! If you should be so unfortunate as to find yourself ablaze, remember to drop and roll to suffocate the flames.

Christopher did not drop and roll. He flailed in terror and dove from the window into the street, setting fire to curtains and a BMW parked nearby as he attempted to beat out the flames with his hands. His efforts added more oxygen to the combustion, and the flames grew higher.

A neighbor mistook the blaze for a bonfire, but quickly realized that it was a burning man. He rushed from his home and attempted to suffocate the fire with bath towels, to no avail.

The fuel-fed fire was so hot that it burnt virtually every inch of Christopher's body, all save the soles of his feet. He died shortly after arriving at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. The verdict at the Hampshire inquest was accidental death.

Note: Many readers complain that this story is unlikely. In the words of Gary B. Wadham, "Butane is a liquified gas that evaporates rapidly under normal pressure and, while not impossible to set yourself on fire, would be more likely to create an explosion. It seems likely that the lighter fluid he was using would be one of the heavier fluids akin to that which fuels a Zippo."

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Submitted by: Iain Sims, Mark Ash

Reference: The London Times, 29 April 1999
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