The Darwin Awards

1999 At-Risk Survivor

At-Risk Survivors have misadventures that stop short of the ultimate sacrifice. Nevertheless we salute the spirit of their colossal blunders with an Honorable Mention. Better luck next time!

Airbag Weapons
1999 At-Risk Survivor
Confirmed True by Darwin

(April 1999, South Africa) In South Africa, car-jacking has become popular in recent years. The South African law has lenient provisions for self defence, and allows "lethal action" if someone's personal property is in danger. Citizens are inventive in creating martial security systems for their cars. Poison gas, acid showers, flamethrowers and automatic gunfire are not unknown.

One such security system relied upon an airbag installed in the car roof. If a driver sat down without disabling the mechanism, the airbag would inflate and hit the victim atop his head with a force strong enough to render him unconscious.

And that is exactly what happened to Pieter Niewoudt, who, armed with a pistol, attempted to steal this vehicle. When the airbag exploded, he thought that someone was shooting at him, and he instinctively fired the pistol twice. Unfortunately for him, his gun was still in his pocket at the time.

One bullet hit his knee, and the other lodged in the base of his penis. The consequences of his injuries may include sterility, making him a contender for the 1999 Darwin Award.

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Submitted by Sebastian M

Reference: . Der Spiegel, No. 14 (4/5/99) p.206
Frank Olivier said, "I question the authenticity of this story. I have lived in South Africa for 20 years, yet have never heard or seen any mention of this incident. I could not find any mention of it in South African newspapers, nor in international newspapers. And Der Spiegel is not the most reliable source of news regarding African events. We do not have "lenient provisions for self defense." The South African constitution provides for the human rights of all citizens, criminals included, and the anti-hijacking mechanism described above is illegal. Had this event in fact occurred, the car owner would have been arrested; this factoid would then almost certainly have made it into the Der Spiegel article. I am amazed that you published this drivel as a true story."
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