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2002 Personal Accounts
The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random


Exploding Latrine
2002 Personal Account

"A similar event happened at an airfield infirmary in India during WWII. Our latrines were dug by local help, and the pits were amazingly deep. Flies were a problem, but new insecticides were just appearing, and they took care of the situation.

Unfortunately, someone decided that the best solvent for the insecticides was gasoline. This mixture was regularly sprayed into the pit. NO SMOKING signs were posted, but eventually someone tossed a lit cigarette into the pit. It went off with a hell of a bang, and lit up the sky.

Miraculously, no one was killed; the ten-hole latrine simply unravelled faster than the seated gentry, many of whom spent time on their bellies in the infirmary." -Ellicott McConnell

(North Carolina) In the late 1980's I was part of an Engineering Squadron stationed at Pope Air Force Base. One of our wartime tasks was to build a tent city in the field that was capable of supporting several hundred troops. We often practiced creating such a city. One of the needed facilities is, of course, a latrine. To serve hundreds of people, it must be large, and we usually built an elaborate plywood structure. After the field training, we would dig a big hole and bury the wood, since couldn't be used again for sanitation reasons.

During one exercise, the structures people built a particularly large latrine. At the end of the exercise, we dug a hole with a backhoe and pushed the building into it. But after it toppled into the hole, the Master Sergeant in charge of the detail realized there was too much wood to bury easily. There were at least 10 full sheets of plywood, and lots of 2x4's.

The Sergeant obtained permission to burn the wood before burying it. He sent an Airman to get some diesel fuel, but all that remained of the fuel supply was a 5-gallon can of gas. The Sergeant decided it would work fine, and dumped the entire five gallons on the pile of wood down in the hole.

He pulled out his "trusty" Zippo to light a piece of paper to throw into the pile, and spent several minutes trying to get the Zippo to work, with no luck. Finally someone produced a book of matches, and he lit the paper. The entire detail of seven or eight Airmen stood ringing the hole as the Sergeant threw the burning paper into the hole, declaring ominously, "Fire in the hole."

He wasn't kidding. When the flame hit the accumulated gas vapors under all that plywood...KABOOM! A fireball rose thirty feet into the air. Plywood and 2x4s went everywhere. Rolls of unused toilet paper flew up into the trees like party streamers. There were actually pieces of plywood and 2x4s stuck 50 feet up in the limbs of the pine trees.

The airman had scattered, but the Sergeant still stood at the edge of the hole in exactly the same position as when he dropped the flame. His uniform was scorched, his eyebrows were gone, and all he had to say was, "Whoops." We never laughed so hard in our lives, although our Commander didn't appreciate the humor. Thankfully no one died. I guess the Sergeant was wearing his water wings in the pool of life that day. © 1994 - 2020
Submitted by: Stan

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