Darwin Award Winner for 1997 Announced
You all know about the Darwin Awards – It’s an annual honor given to
the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing
themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid way.
The 1995 winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which
toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out
In 1996 the winner was an air force sergeant who attached a JATO unit
to his car and crashed into a cliff several hundred feet above the
And now, the 1997 winner: Larry Waters of Los Angeles — one of the few
Darwin winners to survive his award-winning accomplishment. 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, had a bright idea. 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,
would measure 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 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
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 that way.
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.
Then he really got in trouble. He found himself drifting into the the
primary approach corridor of Los Angeles International Airport. A
United 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 with the helicopter in hot pursuit. 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 and was
hauled back to shore. The difficult maneuver was flawlessly executed by
the helicopter crew. 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 why he had done it. Larry stopped,turned and replied
nonchalantly, “A man can’t just sit around.”
Let’s hear it for Larry Waters, the 1997 Darwin Award Winner.