AOH :: DARWIN97.TXT|
The 1997 Darwin Award winner!
DARWIN AWARD WINNER FOR 1997 ANNOUNCED
You'll recall a Darwin Award winner not long ago where a former
airforce sergeant decided to strap a cargo plane rocket booster to his
car to see how fast it would go and ended up killing himself (hence
the "Darwin" award...in the struggle for survival only the fittest
survive....) when his car didn't negotiate a curve in on the road in
northern New Mexico where he had set up this experiment. The car
smashed into the side of a cliff several hundred feet above the
Here's the 1997 winner: Larry Walters of Los Angeles. Larry is one of
the few to win the award and still be alive.
Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. When he graduated from high school,
he joined the Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately,
poor eyesight disqualified him. When he was finally discharged, he
had to satisfy himself with watching jets fly over his backyard.
One day, Larry, brightened up. He decided to fly. He went to the
local Army-Navy surplus store and purchased 45 weather balloons and
several tanks of helium. The weather bolloons, when fully inflated,
measured more than four feet across. Back home, Larry securely
strapped the balloons to his sturdy lawn chair. He anchored the chair
to the bumper of his jeep and inflated the balloons with the helium.
He climbed on for a test while it was still only a few feet above the
Satisfied that it would work, Larry packed several sandwiches and a
six-pack of miller lite, loaded his pellet gun - figuring he could pop
a few balloons when it was time to descend - and went back to the
floating lawnchair where he tied himself in along with his pellet gun
and provisions. Larry's plan was to lazily float up to a height of
about 30 feet above his back yard after severing the anchor and in a
few hours come back down.
Things didn't quite work out for Larry. When he cut the cord
anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30
or so feet. Instead he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a
cannon. He didn't level of at 30 feet, nor did he level off at 100
feet. After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 11,000 feet. At
that height he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he
unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed,
there, drifting cold and frightened for more than 14 hours when he
found himself in the primary approach corridor of LAX.
A Pan Am pilot first spotted Larry. He radioed the tower and
described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. Radar confirmed
the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport.
LAX emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter was
dispatched to investigate.
LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze
began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea. Right on Larry's heels
was the helicopter. Several miles out, the helicopter caught up with
Larry. Once the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they
attempted to close in for a rescue but the draft from the blades would
push Larry away whenever they neared. Finally, the helicopter
ascended to a position several hundred feet above Larry and lowered a
rescue line. Larry snagged the line, with which he was hauled back to
shore, a difficult manuver, flawlessly executed by the helicopter
As soon as Larry was hauled to earth, he was arrested by waiting
members of the LAPD for violating LAX airsapce. As he was led away in
handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue, asked him
why he had done it. Larry stopped, turned and replied nonchalantly,
"A man can't just sit around."
Here's a salute to Larry Walters, the 1997 Darwin Award Winner.
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