DARWIN AWARD WINNER
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 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 roadbed.
Here's another 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
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 balloons, 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 ground.
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 off 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 maneuver, 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 airspace. 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, another proud Darwin Award Winner.
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