1997 Darwin Award Winner!
You all know about the Darwin Award - It is an annual honor given to the person who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing himself in the most extraordinarily stupid way. The 1995 winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine that 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 unit to his car and crashed into a cliff several hundred feet above the roadbed.
And now, a contender for a future Darwin Award winner: Larry Waters of Los Angeles -- a should-be Darwin Award winner. 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 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 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 cutting the anchor line and then come back down a few hours later.
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 came near. Finally, the helicopter climbed 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 Larry 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, a future Darwin Award Winner!