The Darwin Awards

2009 At-Risk Survivor

Next Prev Random 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!

Chutes and Spills
2009 At-Risk Survivor
Unconfirmed by Darwin

(Iraq, 2003) A group of Marines located some surplus parachutes that had been taken out of active circulation. The silk chutes were good for nothing more than providing shade in Iraq--or midsummer mischief. To begin with, they popped two chutes and competed to see who could run 100 meters fastest while dragging a chute, but in short order the Marines moved on to more daring adventures.

The most prominent ideas floated were to either jump off the top of the barracks, or paraglide off the back of a truck driven along the beach. Obviously jumping off a building wasn't wise, and the long drive to the beach precluded immediate gratification. But why not deploy a canopy behind a car while driving, like a drag racing parachute?

With proper planning, this might have caused no more damage than a missing bumper, but without proper planning, it almost provided one Lance Corporal with a premature death. You see, in the interest of saving time, the Marines attached the chute to the driver instead of the car. The driver buckled in, and the chute was tossed out of the sun roof of the Eclipse.

The first two runs were a "failure" because the chute didn't catch enough air. After a brief moment of thought, the men held the chute open behind the Eclipse while the driver, now pumped full of adrenaline, revved the engine and popped the clutch. The stretch of road was no longer than 200 yards, but it was the longest drive ever taken by that Marine.

The canopy quickly expanded to its fullest, the loose cords pulled taut, and the driver was lifted dramatically off his seat. He found himself suspended in the cabin of the car with only the seatbelt preventing him from being yanked through the sunroof. What with being pulled in different directions, the cord lacerations, and the fear of crashing into barriers a hundred feet ahead, he had had enough!

However, in his position against the roof of the cab, he couldn't do much about the situation. The young man realized that he had a legit chance of being the next dumb Marine to accidentally kill himself.

After what seemed like an eternity, he finally managed to stretch his limbs far enough to depress the clutch and pull the emergency brake. The car stopped suddenly--not to the sound of screeching tires, but to the sound of cracking fiberglass. With the car at rest, the Marine expected that he would slide back down to his seat and beat a hasty retreat from that death trap. Instead he remained inexplicably pressed against the roof of the cab. He struggled with the seatbelt, released the five-point parachute harness, and slithered out of the car, breathing a prayer of gratitude.

Observers had seen the parachute canopy sway violently from side to side behind the small car. At the very instant the driver had pulled the brake, the chute had caught on a concrete Jersey barrier next to the buildings. It was a gut-wrenching moment. If he had braked a foot later, the Marine would have been crushed between the opposing forces of the moving vehicle and the stationary parachute.

The loud cracking fiberglass noises were the sounds of the cords compressing the sunroof into the top of the car and breaking the spoiler loose from the trunk. The small crowd rippled with the nervous laughter of people who had narrowly survived a runaway roller coaster.

A sailor who witnessed the stunt from the E-club came running out with disbelief. "Are you trying to get a Darwin Award, Marine? Why did you do that?"

The Marine answered in the most matter of fact voice, "We got bored."

ORIGINAL SUBMISSION

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Reference: Anonymous personal account.

Skeptical Reader Comments

"This story can't be right. If he was pinned to the roof of the car and could barely reach the clutch, then his foot was obviously off the accelerator, so the car would stop of its own accord. An automatic transmission might crawly forward slowly, but not a standard shift." reader Mike Shefler

"Seems unlikely. If he was unable to reach the clutch, he'd have been unable to keep his foot on the gas, and the engine braking would have brought the vehicle to a halt in a few seconds."- reader Numpty

"This story can't be true, due to the fact that the US Marines and other branches of the military are not allowed to have personal vehicles in a war zone. The mention of the 'Eclipse' is completely fabricated; it would have had to have been a military grade vehicle, such as a Humvie or a MPT (Military Personnel Transport, huge armored vehicles with turrets.)"- reader Jame Meier

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