Darwin Award Nomination

Tell me if this is a good nomination. It’s a two-fer. The incident ended in death, so this is the real thing, not some sort of honorable mention.

Two men from Illinois were run over and killed on a highway in southern Wisconsin (about an hour out from Madison).

They had been passengers in a car and started to argue. The driver of the car pulled over to the side of the road, the men jumped out and started to fight, and a drunk driver ran them both over. Fatally.



  1. #1 ApostateAbe
    September 17, 2009

    Definitely not a Darwin award. You talk as though they deserved it. For fighting at the side of the highway? Really?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    ApostateAbe:Could you be more clear on your objection. For instance, what do you mean by the word “it” in this case? Your comment is entirely to vague to make sense of.

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    September 17, 2009

    Sorry, but this one just doesn’t have that little extra something required to raise ordinary dumbshititude to the level of the Brazilian priest who flew a lawn chair with weather balloons out over the Atlantic and ended up feeding the sharks.

  4. #4 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    September 17, 2009

    I agree with D.C. A good Darwin award needs to have some sort of tasteless irony.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    September 17, 2009

    I think it’s premature to close the books on this one. After all, we don’t know what they were fighting over yet.

  6. #6 Doyle
    September 17, 2009

    Personally, I lost interest in the Darwin Awards years ago, when I realized that some of them were just urban myths and not real incidents. Are they more rigorous about verification these days?

  7. #7 Albatross
    September 17, 2009

    According to the reports I’ve seen, they were fighting IN the highway…

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    What they were fighting over is key, maybe determinative. But one difference between these two and the “Brazilian Priest” is that these two guys in Wisconsin actually existed and actually got killed becasue they were too busy fighting to notice that they were on a highway.

    They failed to properly balance their competing risk functions. When birds do that they become owl food. When antelopes do that they become lion food. When monkeys traversing the canopy do this they are caught between the Monkey Eating Eagle and a fatal drop to the forest floor.

    I think the monkeys would get a Darwin Awared, Dammit!

  9. #9 Arjay
    September 17, 2009

    Just a couple of superfluous males. Was the driver of the car female?

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    Albatross “IN” the highway? As opposed to “ON” the hihway? WTFAYTAM?

  11. #11 Jared
    September 17, 2009

    Actually, I’m with Greg on this; any measure of dumbassness which results in death (prior to reproduction, of course) should be nominated. I don’t know if it should win, but it should at least get a nomination. Here is one that should win:

  12. #12 Stephanie Z
    September 17, 2009

    Yeah but, Greg, that’s the science. You know it’s the story that’s actually important.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    If they were fighting over women (or a woman) they MUST be nominated.

  14. #14 Sigmund
    September 17, 2009

    I agree with Mike and DC – although DC’s example of the priest probably shouldn’t count (simply being a priest should technically remove you from the gene pool anyway!).
    In the case Greg wrote about above I would have thought that, stupid as it was, it wasn’t as bad as drunk driving that resulted in the deaths of several people.

  15. #15 John
    September 17, 2009

    There’s nothing selective, humorous, or ironic about the people drunk drivers kill.

    Now, if the drunk driver had hit the people and been killed for some self-inflicted ironic reason, then yes, give that man a darwin award! But he killed someone else. If this guy or his victims deserve a darwin award, we’d be handing them out like candy.

  16. #16 Anonymous
    September 17, 2009

    one difference between these two and the “Brazilian Priest” is that these two guys in Wisconsin actually existed

    I thought the priest thing was real. Did I miss that it was an elaborate hoax or something?


  17. #17 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    Holy Crap! I guess I was thinking of the apocryphal guy in the Southwest or California or someplace who was seen sitting in his chair by people in a jet liner.

    Anyway, this priest can’t get the darwin award. Having not reproduced yet is a (not really valid but widely accepted) condition, but the expectation of reproduction is also required, I would think.

  18. #18 Bert Chadick
    September 17, 2009

    I could have earned the award in 1969 or ’70, when inspired by the Beatles singing “Why don’t we do it in the road?” and a massive amount of hash a girlfriend of the day and I almost got run over on a stretch of blacktop in East Texas. Ah! The ’60s.

  19. #19 Joshua Zelinsky
    September 17, 2009

    Greg, that guy was real too. See http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/l/lawnchairlarry.htm

    He worked for a while after as a motivational speaker but he had problems with alchoholism and the motivational speaking job never did that well. He eventually went into the woods and shot himself. Which is a bit of a downer. But he was a real person.

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    OK, so maybe THAT guy was real, but I guess I was thinking of the guy in New Mexico or Arizona who attached a used F=14 engine to his chevey to see if he could make it fly and it did, straight into a nearby mesa where you can still see the stain today. That one was a fake.

  21. #21 Rick Pikul
    September 17, 2009


    The guy in California you’re thinking of was Larry Walters, who reached 15,000 feet on his lawn chair, (14,970 more than he intended). He was fined $1500 because he entered controlled airspace without establishing communication with the tower.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    Yeah, but this guy with the jet engine …. THAT ONE never happened.

  23. #23 chris
    September 17, 2009

    OK, you’re right, that one is false.


  24. #24 Shawn Smith
    September 17, 2009

    Greg Laden:

    The guy(s) with the JATO (Jet Assisted Takeoff) hooked up the Chevy was the subject of a rather long article in, I think, Slate several years ago. And, of course, Jamie and Adam tested it in one of their first episodes (if not the first) of Mythbusters.

  25. #25 Shawn Smith
    September 17, 2009

    I also think a Darwin award should at least go to someone who started out their entry with, “Hey guys, watch this!”

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    September 17, 2009

    So, they really did that jet engine thing?????

    You know, I think the one I was actually thinking of was the one where the guys go out on he lake in their brand new pickup truck, and their dog, and done TNT, and the guy lights a stick and throws it to blast a hole (for fishing) into the ice.

    The dog, naturaly goes after the dynamite and brings it back, fuse still burning. The guys freak out and scream at the dog, who gets mixed messages …

    .. and runs under the truck just in time for the dynamite to go off, blowing up the dog, the truck, and making a big hole in the ice through which the truck falls.

    That’s the one that was made up. (The dog got the Darwin award, of course)

  27. #28 José
    September 18, 2009

    People don’t expect priests to reproduce?

  28. #29 Stephanie Z
    September 18, 2009

    According to the most detailed article I saw (still no information on why they were fighting), the drunk driver is the woman who pulled over, not the woman who hit the men–who were lying down in the road.

  29. #30 Greg Laden
    September 18, 2009

    Stephanie: Wow, that’s quite different than the account I read which was, admittedly, sketchy.

  30. #31 greg laden
    September 18, 2009

    The original report said “Two guys were fighting in car A, and the driver of car A pulled over and two guys got out of Car A and were run over by Car B…. the Other car driver was cited for drunk driving” … and I took “other car” since the whole thing was about car A, to mean “Car B…” Subsequent reports have been much more clear so I think I was not the only person confused by this wording. (Or, if I want to be more Minnesotan, I should say “I was not the only person misled by this wording”)

    So, for instance, one report now says:

    “The driver of the vehicle that hit them was treated for minor injuries. Two children in her car weren’t hurt.

    The Darlington woman who was driving the vehicle Baker and Harris were in was cited for drunk driving.”

    Stephanie, I would not say that they were “lying down on the road.” At least in my mind, that implies that they were down for a nap or passed out or something. Rather, “Authorities say the men were not visible to Thompson because they were lying in the northbound lane of the road while fighting.” .. I don’t know, somehow “lying” is a bad word choice in that sentence. “Down on the ground fighting” might be better.

  31. #32 Robert
    September 18, 2009

    Probably more like “rolling around on the ground drunk trying to fight” is more like it.

  32. #33 Stephanie Z
    September 18, 2009

    Oh, yeah. The wording sucked. But note the time I posted. I get points for using punctuation, I do.

  33. #34 Geds
    September 18, 2009

    You know, I think the one I was actually thinking of was the one where the guys go out on he lake in their brand new pickup truck, and their dog, and done TNT, and the guy lights a stick and throws it to blast a hole (for fishing) into the ice.

    Adam and Jamie did that one, too. It was in one of the Alaska specials. I forget how it turned out, though.

    Oh, wait. I think they figured out that a dog could, theoretically, have done the fetch and return with the dynamite. But then they discovered that if the ice is thick enough to support a Ford Explorer than it’s gonna take a lot more than a single stick of TNT to make the truck go under.

  34. #35 JefFlyingV
    September 18, 2009

    Back in 2001, Indiana, 2 men were fishing with dynamite. The boat they were in floated over the submerged stick of tnt and killed one of the men. Seems that was worthy of the award at the time.

    Who can forget the father that played a trick on his family at the south rim of the Grand Canyon? From: “Over the Edge: Death In Grand Canyon” pps 16&17.

    There seems to many traditions that can be given the award, but the Wisconsin fighters deserve a special award that would have the added prestige of enhanced stupidity.

  35. #36 Greg Laden
    September 18, 2009

    Geds: But when the dynamite blows up the truck, there is this gas tank thing… Have you see a Ford Explorer burn? I have no doubt whatsoever it would melt though a few feet of ice over the next half hour or so.

    I used to have bubbles on the right side of my car from driving bout 50 feet around a burning truck on the Mass Pike.

  36. #37 Geds
    September 18, 2009

    But when the dynamite blows up the truck, there is this gas tank thing… Have you see a Ford Explorer burn?

    Oooh, that’s a really good point. As I recall, they drained their test vehicle of all fluids so as to avoid contaminating the lake (y’know, any more than necessary) if it actually went through the ice. That particular modification to the scenario would change things drastically, though.

    I would highly doubt that your average ice fisherman drives out on a lake with no gas in the car…

  37. #38 Julie Stahlhut
    September 18, 2009

    When my husband and I were dating in the mid-1980s, he lived in an apartment on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston. From his living room window, we once saw a bunch of young guys brawling on the streetcar tracks. We immediately dialed 911, and got put on the infinite hold that often swallowed up 911 calls in Boston in those days. Fortunately for the idiot pugilists, a cabbie who was driving by swerved toward the tracks and blared his horn. They quickly dispersed before anyone had a chance to get knocked unconscious and left in the path of a speeding Green Line train.

    Ain’t no idiot like a fightin’ idiot.

  38. #39 Rob
    September 18, 2009

    So they were too busy fighting to notice their environment. Not unlike Mega-shark and Giant octopus who hated each other so much, they didn’t notice the ice age falling around them… egad, that was a terrible movie

  39. #40 Shawn Smith
    September 18, 2009

    Here are some links for the Wikipedia entries on Mythbusters coverage of the myths mentioned:

    JATO Powered Impala
    Lawn Chair Balloon
    Dynamite on Ice under a Ford Explorer and a Dog.

    And I was wrong about the JATO story being in Slate. I read it in Wired.

  40. #41 A&W
    September 18, 2009

    That must have been megashark II, czI don’t remember it