Charles Darwin at a green chalkboard.

2002 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.

Mechanic Mayhem
2002 Darwin Award Winner
Confirmed True by Darwin

Boeing News Release
The Boeing Company extends its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of the employee who was fatally injured in an accident at the Boeing site in Auburn, WA. The employee, who worked for Boeing Equipment Services, was performing routine maintenance on a machine in the Integrated AeroStructures building when the incident occurred. He was immediately transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he later died. The cause of the accident is under investigation. We are deeply saddened by this very difficult and tragic event.

(15 January 2002, Washington) A 49-year-old Boeing worker was performing maintenance on a giant, computer-controlled machine that makes parts out of metal blocks using hydraulics to control its movement. The hydraulic lines are pressurized to 20,000 PSI even when the machine is shut off. Working on equipment such as this requires attention to detail, and a careless employee is liable to suffer dire consequences.

The potential for trouble should have been obvious to this sixteen-year member of the Machinists Union, and yet, despite redundant safety procedures, tags, warning signs, and a fearful co-worker, our Darwin Award hopeful began to remove a hydraulic line without relieving the pressure.

The bolts holding the line in place were so tight that he had to locate a 4-foot section of pipe to attach to his ratchet to give him enough leverage to loosen the bolt. For some, that would have been warning enough that the line was pressurized.

Four high-strength bolts attached the line to the machine. The soon-to-be-ex-employee had removed three, and loosened the fourth, when the over-stressed bolt snapped. A foot-long, 3" diameter brass sleeve was inside the line to prevent the hose from kinking. It shot out and hit the mechanic in the forehead with such force that it knocked him back eight feet, ricocheted off his head, and hit a crane fifty feet overhead.

The maintenance worker never knew what hit him. © 1994 - 2022

The details of this event come from eyewitness reports and a news release from Boeing. The precise details are disputed, but the story is written to take as many observations into account as possible. Eyewitnesses and knowledgeable parties are encouraged to step forward to confirm or dispute this account.

Previous Directions Next