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.
Out With a Bang!
2000 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin
says, "Saw a picture of this in a Time Magazine photo collection. It was a small town gas station. A father and son were inflating a tractor tire when it exploded, killing them both. They were lying on the ground with most of their clothes torn from their body. Had to see it to believe it."
(19 April 2000, Georgia ) A mechanic at a tire store in Montezuma was killed when a tire he and his brother were repairing exploded. The two were attempting to repair a crack in a tractor-trailer wheel rim with a welding torch. A high school chemistry student can tell you that heating air in a sealed container, such as a truck tire, causes the gas to expand and the pressure to increase. But the brothers, who had been repairing tires for years, did not heed this principle and deflate the tire before fixing the crack.
Montezuma Police Chief Lewis Cazenave hypothesized that the heat from the welding torch caused the air in the tire to expand until it exploded. Witnesses say that when the 4' diameter tire exploded, the rim left the axle "with great velocity," striking Robert in the head and killing him instantly. The force of the explosion was enough to knock a pickup truck off of a nearby lift, and the report was heard at the local police station one mile away.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited and fined the tire and wheel company, but the owner says he will contest the findings. "They were both trained. The manager and the customer told him not to, but he did it anyway."
on Water in the Tire: "The air inside the tire would expand to a certain degree, but
not enough to actually burst the tire. There was probably some moisture inside the tire, which was heated to boiling.
That would really drive up the pressure. If you assume that only air was inside the tire, it would require a lot of heat to even double the
original pressure. But think of the amount of steam you can generate from even a small amount of
In motor racing it is very important to have optimum control of tire
pressure. The people responsible for the tires take precautions to keep any moisture out of the tires, which minimizes the pressure increase due to rise in temperature."
on Gas in the Tire: "I think you will find it was the gases in the tire that exploded. When I first started welding in 1969 there was a bulletin about a similiar accident. Apparently there are explosive gases exuded by the rubber and glue. Never weld on a wheel that is not separated from the tire."
Brad Warren on Tire Repair Kits: "The tractor-trailer tire may have contained a volatile gas such as butane or propane, commonly used in quick-fix flat repair kits. These fuels can be compressed into a "stable" liquid form in a small can, and expand to inflate a car tire. All the more reason for these two poor souls the receive a Darwin Award!"
on Split-Rim Tires:
"Truck tires are sometimes mounted on split-rims, a one-piece locking ring that is split to fit between the rim and the bead of the tire. The split-rim ring is the only thing holding the tire to the rim.
Such tires are placed in a protective cage when inflating, in case the split-rim ring slips and causes the tire to "explode." I have heard of exploding split-rims punching holes through cinderblock walls. My guess is the heat from the torch caused the ring to expand and slip."