1997 Darwin Award Winner
Posted by Bal Vallah on June 08, 1998 at 08:09:50:

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/injuring 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 of it.

In 1996 the winner was an air force sergeant who attached a JATO (rocket) unit to his car
and crashed into a cliff several hundred feet above the roadbed.

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 lawn chair.

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 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.

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."

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