Four Unusual Deaths

posted on 4/2/13

Illustrations by Geoffrey Stanton

Croc Flight

Next time you board a plane in the United States, thank your friendly local TSA agent for throwing out that four-ounce bottle of shampoo you secretly tucked in a carryon bag. In 2010, one smuggled carry-on item caused a short-range aircraft to crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo. First reports of the crash assumed that the plane had run out of fuel and was unable to properly land as a result. However, according to the sole survivor, a crocodile had caused a panic when it freed itself from a passenger’s duffel bag. Crew members and passengers attempted to escape the angry animal by storming the front of the plane which caused the pilot to lose control of the aircraft because of the weight imbalance. The crash killed 20 crew and passengers, leaving one survivor and, in a terrible twist of fate, the crocodile alive.

The London Beer Flood

Throughout its history, London has dealt with epic disasters—the plague, the great fire, the blitz. But in 1814, Londoners had a slightly different kind of disaster to clean up. On October 17, at the Meux and Company Brewery, a vat holding over 135,000 imperial gallons of beer burst, setting off a domino effect of additional beer vat explosions. Over 323,000 imperial gallons of beer flooded the streets, destroying two homes and a pub, and flooded several buildings along its path. The wave of beer killed nine people, one of which died from alcohol poisoning. Survivors quickly tried to salvage the dirty beer with whatever they could find. A judge and jury determined the event was an “act of god,” leaving the Meux and Company Brewery free of responsibility.

The Cannibal of Rotenburg

The internet is a great thing. With its advent, we said goodbye to the Dewey Decimal System and hello to instantly ending dinner debates. The internet offers us the opportunity to quickly calculate pi, look at pictures of different solar systems, and make new friends who share our interests. And in 2003, Armin Meiwes, a computer repairman, made full and horrid use of the internet when he placed an advertisement on the website The Cannibal Café. Without having googled it myself, I think it’s safe to make some assumptions on what The Cannibal Café was all about. Meiwes sought a well-built young man, willing to be slaughtered and consumed. Enter: Bernd Jurgen Brandes, an engineer from Berlin, who duly rose to the occasion and volunteered his services. The two met in Meiwes’ Rotenburg home where Meiwes amputated Brandes’ penis, fried it up with a little wine, and attempted to serve it for dinner—you know, like you do. Meiwes eventually killed Brandes, froze his body, and ate him for several weeks before police finally arrested him. Police only caught Meiwes because he posted another ad online, looking for the same set up and boasting about his accomplishment with Brandes. Real smart. Meiwes is now serving a life sentence for the murder of Brandes. But don’t worry, he has renounced his former human-consuming ways and now is a vegetarian.

Death by Cactus

Saguaro cacti are an interesting species. These plants take up to 75 years to develop a side arm, often live for over 150 years, and can grow to be 70 feet tall. Sure—it’s no redwood. But these hefty plants can weigh up to eight tons. David Grundman learned how much a saguaro weighs the hard way. In 1982, Grundman and his roommate decided to pack up some guns and wander the desert of Arizona. At some point, they thought it would be a good idea to shoot at some Saguaro cacti. Grundman first shot a small one with no problem. His next shot, however, severed a four-foot spiny arm which fell directly on top of Grundman and crushed him. So kids, today’s lesson: never screw with nature.

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